Cathedrals Measure - Motion to Direct

– in the House of Lords at 7:32 pm on 22nd April 2021.

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The Lord Bishop of Durham:

Moved by The Lord Bishop of Durham

That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Cathedrals Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

Photo of The Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham Bishop

My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The Cathedrals Measure provides a new statutory framework for the governance and regulation of 41 Church of England cathedrals and will replace the framework in the Cathedrals Measure 1999.

Our cathedrals are national treasures which it is both a privilege and a responsibility to care for. They play a key role in our national life, with some 10 million adults visiting them each year and around 330,000 children enjoying free educational visits to them. All our cathedrals are involved in work in their local community, and they contribute around £220 million annually to the UK economy, employing some 3,000 people. Above all, however, each cathedral serves its community as the mother church of its area and the seat of a bishop, and remains in use for its original purpose.

Through their presence, worship and varied work, cathedrals reach out to their local and wider communities in many ways. We have seen examples of this in recent days when cathedrals have been local centres of prayer, remembering and thanksgiving. It is, therefore, vital that the legislative framework in which our cathedrals operate facilitates and supports them in functioning in a manner that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

As noble Lords may recall, a commission was established by the archbishops in the 1990s, chaired by Baroness Howe of Idlicote, whose work laid the foundation for the Cathedrals Measure 1999. However, best practice in charity governance, safeguarding and the heritage sector has moved on considerably since then. In January 2017 the Archbishops’ Council established the Cathedrals Working Group, partly in response to a request from the Bishop of Peterborough following a visitation at Peterborough Cathedral the previous year that had revealed a number of concerns about cathedral governance.

The Cathedrals Working Group was charged with taking a hard look at how the legislation governing cathedrals was operating and what improvements should be made. It was to have a particular focus on financial management, major building projects, safeguarding, accountability, oversight and scrutiny. In its final report in June 2018, the working group set out its recommendations for the future of cathedrals. The most significant of these related to the governance, structure and regulation of cathedrals. The General Synod endorsed the recommendation of the Cathedrals Working Group in July 2018. Legislation was introduced to give effect to the recommendations that involved legislative change. The result is this Measure.

During the progress of the legislation in the General Synod, those responsible for the Measure listened carefully to the cathedral community and consulted with the Charity Commission. A number of significant changes were made to the draft legislation during the synodical process. While the Measure before your Lordships’ House reflects the key recommendations of the Cathedrals Working Group’s report, those recommendations have been implemented in a way that is supported by those in the cathedral community. This is demonstrated by the strong support that the Measure received at final approval, with no General Synod members voting against it.

The principal changes that the measure will bring about are as follows. Cathedrals will be brought within the regulatory jurisdiction of the Charity Commission. Cathedral chapters will have a majority of non-executive members. Cathedrals will no longer be obliged to have a council undertaking certain statutory functions separate from the cathedral chapter. Instead, all trustee functions will be held in the same place and exercised by an expanded chapter. The Charity Commission was consulted on the Measure and on the amendments to it, and any points raised have been addressed. I thank the staff of the Charity Commission for their helpful comments and prompt responses, particularly given the additional pressures on them during the pandemic.

The Measure, like its predecessor, does not apply to the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford, because that cathedral is, uniquely, both a cathedral and a college of the University of Oxford. It is also a royal foundation, governed by an entirely different statutory regime in the form of statutes made under the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Acts 1877 and 1923, and therefore outside the scope of this Measure. Although I am aware that some noble Lords have concerns in relation to Christ Church, I do not intend to comment on these matters, partly because they are outside the scope of the Measure.

I understand that any proceedings relating to the dean under the Clergy Discipline Measure are not technically subject to sub judice rules, but the Companion to the Standing Orders nevertheless states that

“it is recognised that Parliament should not generally intervene in matters where the decision has been delegated to others by Parliament itself.”

These matters are subject to a statutory process under the Clergy Discipline Measure, and I therefore intend to say no more about them.

This Measure is vital to provide cathedrals the governance structures that they need to support effective safeguarding, healthy finances and increased accountability going forward. The Ecclesiastical Committee considered the Measure on 23 February 2021, reported that it considers the Measure to be expedient and has issued a favourable report which it has laid before the House. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Labour 7:38 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, this Measure is unsatisfactory because it seeks to improve the governance of England’s cathedrals but, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has just said, it does not apply to the one cathedral whose governance has, for the last two and a half years, totally broken down: Christ Church, Oxford, which is both a cathedral and a college, and forms a substantial part of the University of Oxford. There is still no end in sight to this governance breakdown, and therefore it is essential to draw the situation to the attention of the House. I am glad to see that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford is also in his place.

Christ Church is a complex undertaking. The cathedral serves a diocese of 2 million people across the Thames valley and includes a cathedral school. The associated college has 700 students, 70 academic staff and a total staff of 400. It has an endowment of £600 million and an annual income of more than £30 million. It also maintains a leading research library and a public art gallery with a renowned collection of Old Masters.

The chief executive of this hybrid institution is the Dean of Christ Church who, since its foundation by Henry VIII, has had to be a vicar of the Church of England. The problem is that, to all intents and purposes, there is not a dean at the moment, and there has not been for two and a half years, since the relationship broke down between the present dean and the governing body of Christ Church, which comprises both the cathedral canons and the university academic staff of the college.

I do not want to get into the reasons for this breakdown, which, as the right reverend Prelate just said, are the subject of ongoing proceedings, but the key point in terms of governance is that, after two and a half years, legal fees now in excess of £1 million and repeated votes of no confidence by the governing body in the dean, who is not undertaking his functions, there is still no resolution in sight, nor even an indication of who might provide such a resolution. This is because, under the Christ Church Oxford Act 1867, which still applies, while there is a so-called governing body for the management of the college, that body has no role in the appointment of the dean, which lies with the Crown alone, nor does the governing body have power to remove the dean, except in the extreme case of conduct deemed scandalous.

Furthermore, the dean’s appointment is not term-limited, and there is no external body that has the power to resolve the breakdown between the dean and the governing body. Neither the Church of England nor the University of Oxford has any legal powers of intervention, and while the Charity Commission has regulatory oversight, this does not extend to a power to resolve disputes of this kind, unless the commission deems charitable trustees, who in this case are the entire governing body of 70, to be in breach of their charitable trusteeships, which is not an issue here.

We have to hope and, indeed, pray that this paralysis can be resolved quickly and a solution found to the position of the current dean, but once that happens it is essential that there is a radical reform of Christ Church so that this byzantine structure does not continue. I suggest two obvious reforms that should take place before the appointment of a new dean. First, the cathedral and the college should be divided as institutions. Secondly, both should get modern leadership and governance: the cathedral should come under this governance Measure and the college should become a conventional university institution that appoints and supervises its own chief executive. The post should not be restricted, as now, to a vicar of the Church of England, which is deeply inappropriate for a university in the 21st century, as well as contradicting equalities legislation.

Christ Church, Oxford, is one of England’s world-class institutions. Its governance has collapsed and it needs sorting out urgently.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat 7:43 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, my interests in this debate are recorded in the report on the Measure, particularly that I am high steward of Ripon Cathedral, which is mentioned in the Measure. I gave notice of my intention to speak when we were in the Ecclesiastical Committee meeting because I want to record my particular displeasure about how the Clergy Discipline Measure, the CDM, operates, and how two priests I know have been treated by the Church. Speaking to this Measure is the only way I can address my concerns and bring them to your Lordships’ attention.

The first case concerns a parish priest who was accused, wrongly and maliciously, of taking money from a parishioner. He was arrested, interrogated and put into a prison cell overnight. This was an absolutely horrendous experience, made worse because he had absolutely no idea what it was all about. He is still recovering from it some two and a half years later. To make matters worse, he was suspended from his ministry, his home was searched and his bank account frozen. He was without funds, unable even to hire a solicitor. It later emerged that personal and private details of his funding were passed between his bishop and archdeacon, the police and something called the core group, which was looking into so-called safeguarding matters in the case. This in itself is outrageous and a breach of data protection guidelines.

My friend’s suspension lasted long after the police decided there was no further action to be taken against him. No charge was ever brought, and by then they were pursuing the real culprits of the fraud. It was many months before he heard what was happening with his case, and in the meantime he was given little or no pastoral support from the diocese, in contravention of its own guidelines. I have given the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol a full account of this incident, as she expressed a willingness to understand what happened.

The President of Tribunals, who was dealing with a complaint from the archdeacon involving the case, dismissed it entirely in November 2020, noting that there had been serious failures of process and citing particularly the archdeacon but also the “inordinate time” that the diocese safeguarding report took to produce. This seriously damaged the quality and credibility of that report, which I understand contains a large number of significant factual errors.

I have some questions for the right reverend Prelate and would be happy for him to write to me if he feels that is more appropriate. Will this safeguarding report be removed from my friend’s blue file immediately? If it is not, this injustice continues and could affect the rest of his future ministry; he is still quite a young man. What are the core group’s terms of reference? To whom does it report? To whom is it accountable?

The CDM was never enacted in my friend’s case, yet the threat of it has hung over him since March 2020 and has only recently been lifted. It is seriously wanting and needs urgent replacement.

The second case concerns another priest—from the same diocese, as it happens—who has been and continues to be harassed and stalked by someone of whom the Church is well aware, yet it gives no support to the priest. It appears that the diocese has absolutely no policy that protects its clergy from this kind of stalking and obsessive behaviour. The perpetrator posts highly damaging allegations about this priest on the internet, which remain there as the diocese has declined to help. This priest—like any other I know—simply does not have the funds to bring an injunction against the person stalking him, so it goes on.

There must be many other shocking examples of how the Church fails to safeguard its clergy from these people, yet it has spent a lot of money getting in place a safeguarding policy against its clergy. I believe it needs to look again at how it supports its own and, at least in these two cases, quickly remedy its mistakes.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 7:48 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, I begin with an apology. I have been speaking from within the Chamber for many weeks now, but because King’s Cross station is closed tomorrow and I had to get back to Lincoln, I am here. I thought I would be zooming in on your Lordships. In fact, I am speaking on a telephone because my computer has gone down, so a double apology.

I am tempted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, but will not do so, although the temptation is all the greater because we have recently had our Bishop in Lincoln suspended for 20 months. He is now back, but as an example of natural justice it does not bear close examination.

I want to talk about the Cathedrals Measure. I had a wonderful compensation for not being with your Lordships tonight, because when I went across, as I thought, for evening prayer in our glorious cathedral in Lincoln, we were actually having the first service at evensong in our marvellous St Hugh’s Choir since early March last year and the first lockdown. It was a wonderful spiritual upliftment.

I will of course support this Measure. It has had unanimous support in General Synod, a body on which I served for some 10 years. But I will raise one or two points and would be grateful if the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham would either reply this evening or write to me.

While I accept the logic of cathedrals coming within the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission, it has not had an easy time of late and I want to be completely satisfied that it will be able to cope with this extra workload. It is a matter that I raised on the Ecclesiastical Committee in February, but I remain a bit concerned.

I am also a little concerned about the abolition, after only 20 years, of cathedral councils. I know they had a variable record, but some cathedrals relied on them very much. I would like the reassurance of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that cathedrals will be able to have councils or their equivalent if they so choose. I accept, with regret, that they will not be statutory, but hope that, where a functioning council is working well, it will be able to continue, perhaps under another name, if that is the wish of the dean and chapter.

I am also a little concerned about the senior non-executive who will chair the wider chapter in the absence of the dean. I hope that careful rules will be put in place to govern the selection of that extremely important person, who could give great help to the cathedral, but could also be divisive. I say that because we in Lincoln were one of the two reasons—Hereford being the other—for the Cathedrals Measure of 1999, following the investigation of the Howe commission. Lincoln had a bad period during the 1990s and I would not like to see the seeds of discord sown in this Measure. I hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham can make some reassuring comments.

As for delay, it is important that the new Measure comes into force speedily and expeditiously. Many of us will look to it to show that the Church of England can act in a seemly and speedy way, when necessary. The track record at the moment—I referred to the suspension of our bishop here in Lincoln—is not good, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, underlined the great deal of concern that there is in the country as a whole over the way in which the Church of England conducts itself.

I rest my case there. I wish the Measure every success and hope that it leads to better governance of our cathedrals. They are the glories of our land, the most important group of historic buildings in the country. They are priceless and must be maintained for future generations. I again apologise for having to address your Lordships’ House over a telephone line.

Photo of The Bishop of Oxford The Bishop of Oxford Bishop 7:54 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, to be here in person and to give my general support to the Cathedrals Measure, in the hope that it will be commended by your Lordships’ House as a significant step forward in improving the governance of our cathedrals.

I will take a few moments of the House’s time to respond to some of the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about the dual foundation of Christ Church in Oxford. In doing so, I declare an interest as the Bishop of the Diocese of Oxford, although I am not a member of the college or its governing body.

As has been said, Christ Church is unique as a cathedral and as a royal foundation, with many similarities in its governance and history to the royal foundations of Westminster Abbey and St George’s, Windsor. The monarch, rather than the bishop of the diocese, is the Visitor. For these reasons, it is right that it is exempt from this Cathedrals Measure. It is a matter of deep regret that the situation of Christ Church has remained unresolved for so long. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for his restraint in commenting on the details of the situation and I cannot, of course, comment myself, save only to say that the hurt and distress caused to individuals is very significant.

While the situation has continued for almost three years, which is regrettable, there have been a number of different issues such that this is not a single dispute. Throughout that period, there has been good liaison between the Church of England, Christ Church, the University of Oxford and the Charity Commission. Each party has been active in different ways in seeking to bring a resolution. I believe that the description by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, of the governance arrangements is accurate except that the governing body now has some role in approving the appointment of the dean, but I will write to him on that subject to confirm. All of these parties and the governing body are agreed—and have been agreed for some time—that there must, indeed, be a comprehensive review of governance once a resolution has been reached. The proposals put by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, though interesting and relevant to that debate and process, although it is likely, of course, that the different parties will argue for quite distinct reforms.

On 25 June last year, the Charity Commission issued a notice requiring the parties to the dispute in Christ Church to enter into a mediation process. We await the outcome of that process. The commission also requested that all parties refrain from public or private commentary while the mediation process takes place.

I am able to confirm that the excellent work of both college and cathedral has continued through this difficult period and through the demands of this Covid pandemic. In the cathedral, that is evidenced in the development of streamed worship services, much appreciated and widely taken up across the country and the world as well as the diocese, and in a new development with a school in east Oxford. I pay tribute to all within the foundation for working so very hard to focus on the mission of the charity: the advancement of religion, education and learning through the cathedral and the college.

Christ Church is a unique institution, with a long and distinguished history in one of the great cultural crossroads of the world. I would be very glad to continue conversations with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and with other Members of your Lordships’ House during this difficult period in its life. I support the Measure before us.

Photo of Lord Wilson of Dinton Lord Wilson of Dinton Crossbench 7:58 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, I will contribute briefly to this debate in a positive spirit, very much in support of the Measure. First, I declare my own interest: I am chair of the council of Ely Cathedral, one of the bodies which, under Clause 2(3) of the Measure, is to cease to exist. This cancellation sounds rather dramatic, but I do not object to it in the least; I think it is the right thing to do.

When I was honoured by the invitation from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely to be a chair of the council five years ago, I must confess that I was not absolutely sure what the council did. Five years later, I am still not absolutely sure what the council is formally there for. Honestly, that is no reflection on the Bishop or the dean: they are both great men who do lovely jobs. It is not a reflection on my fellow members, who are very involved and active and are a source of support, loyalty and activity for the cathedral, which is excellent, and I pay tribute to them. It is not the fault of the chapter or of anyone in Ely; it is the fault of the 1999 Cathedrals Measure.

Although Baroness Howe wrote a report, I do not believe that the 1999 Measure actually implemented what that report recommended. The concept of the council, as it emerged in 1999, was a bit of a fudge—I should not say that. The result is that you now have bodies that may be useful because of the sort of people that you have on them—they are determined to be useful. However, they are in a position of responsibility without power, which is very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, if something is going wrong and they can see that but cannot do anything about it—that is not satisfactory.

As such, I note the consultations leading up to this, which began in 2017—I was involved in them. I was a bit pessimistic about this exercise: I thought that there were too many divided views, too many strong differing opinions and too many cathedrals that were too different from one another. They were like colleges: particular creatures of their own kind.

I am delighted and impressed by this Measure; it is a remarkable achievement, which has been achieved by a lot of people. It has very clear structures for cathedrals, separating governance and management in a very clear-minded way—it will be a big improvement. It makes a good step forward in relation to the role of the Charity Commission, which has a lot of work to do—but it has already done a lot of work and found the resources to do it. That is my impression; I am not close to it. Having it alongside the Church Commissioners is a very positive step. Ensuring the central importance of safeguarding is important. This is a very sound basis for our great, glorious cathedrals to go ahead. A lot of hard work has gone into it, and we ought to pause for one moment to say “Well done” to the legal draftsmen, the steering committee and the synod, which were coaxed into doing it, as well as so many other people who have contributed to this.

From the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and others, we have heard some really nasty-sounding cases, and I will not comment on them, beyond one thing. Having been master of a college for 10 years and having seen things go wrong in other colleges and other parts of life, I know that, sometimes, in small communities that are too cut off from the rest of the world, toxins build up, poisons intensify and things go badly wrong. It is very hard to stop this and put them right once they have gone beyond a certain point, and I have great sympathy with the Church authorities in trying to sort these cases out.

The solution is to open the windows, to have outsiders in there and to blow away the toxins before they become too intense and multiply too much. In implementing this wise new Measure, it is important for cathedrals to have the windows open, to involve outsiders and to use their power to set up not formal councils as part of their corporate entity but councils that support them if they want to do that—or to set up whatever advisory or other bodies that they want. Of course, they should do that and bring in outsiders who have a role to play. However, they should not have that as their central muddled governance.

This is a big Measure that will improve the basis of the cathedrals. We should pause for a moment to have a quiet celebration of it.

Photo of Baroness Sherlock Baroness Sherlock Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 8:04 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, I am delighted to follow that contribution. I begin by declaring an interest as a Church of England priest and, more importantly, I was a member of the Cathedrals Working Group whose work led to the Measure before us.

The group was established because the episcopal visitation at Peterborough Cathedral, and that at Exeter before it, raised some important questions about the way cathedrals are governed. We first gathered 25 years after the Howe commission had been established in response to problems at two other cathedrals: Hereford and Lincoln. Our Cathedrals Working Group was altogether a more modest enterprise in terms of scope, time and resources, but we had an important job. In the last 25 years, best practice has changed a lot, and the Measure needs updating. I will not go through the proposals in detail, as they have been scrutinised carefully by synod and, even more dauntingly, the Ecclesiastical Committee.

The Measure enacts two major changes that we recommended. The first was a reorganisation to create specifically a separation of governance and management, as recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Dinton. The idea is that the cathedral governing body remains a chapter chaired by the dean, but now with a majority of non-executive members. We proposed removing cathedral councils from the governance system for clarity, but a way forward has now been found so that councils can continue to operate but without cutting across clear governance lines, which is crucial. I know that councils are greatly valued by their deans and chapters as they bring a wealth of wisdom and expertise, often supplied by Members of this House, such as the noble Lords, Lord Wilson and Lord Cormack. This way the councils can carry on offering crucial advice and support without the constraints and liabilities that are brought with formal trusteeship.

The second big change was the registration of cathedrals with the Charity Commission by bringing them under the Charities Act. It has been observed that cathedrals are the only church bodies which do not report to a secular as well as an ecclesiastical authority, even though they are the institutions, in some ways, most obviously camped on the boundary between Church and state. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was not alone in asking how well placed and resourced the Charity Commission is for this task, but I think that most concerns have now been alleviated, chiefly due to the sterling work of the Third Church Estates Commissioner. The Church Commissioners are now providing money, expertise and assistance to support cathedrals to make sure that their governance, safeguarding and any oversight arrangements are all up to par even before the Charity Commission registration process begins.

The working group made a series of other recommendations about leadership and management, finance and buildings, audit and risk and, crucially, safeguarding—proposing bringing cathedrals into the whole-Church approach led by the CofE national safeguarding team. I have been hugely impressed at the willingness of the Church to accept and act on our recommendations. Having all your recommendations accepted is a rather novel experience for anyone serving on any working group, never mind a Church one, so those involved in receiving and implementing the report should be very much congratulated.

Inevitably, not everyone liked every recommendation. I know that concerns have been raised by some members of the Ecclesiastical Committee, whose deliberations I have followed with interest. But I think the need for most recommendations has been understood. All cathedrals need appropriate financial, operational and managerial controls, and, of course, there can be no compromise on the need for good, effective, modern safeguarding policies and procedures.

I have a few questions for the record. Can the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham confirm that all the recommendations of the Cathedrals Working Group have been accepted by the Church? Are all the recommendations which require legislative change included in the Measure before the House this evening? Is there a plan to implement the non-legislative recommendations? More specifically, if in the wake of IICSA the Church moves to create an independent body to oversee its safeguarding practices, would that cover cathedrals too?

Since this marks the end of a long process, I would like to record some thanks, if the House will indulge me. Thanks are due to the chair of the Cathedrals Working Group, Bishop Adrian Newman, the vice-chair —now the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol—and the other members; Jacqui Phillips and her team, who provided such an excellent secretariat; Alex McGregor and colleagues in the legal office of the CofE, who kept us on the right side of the law with tact and precision; the Third Church Estates Commissioner, Eve Poole, for marvellous work; the CofE legal adviser, Eva Abeles; and all those who have worked so hard to advance these reforms.

In closing, the working group was full of people like me who love cathedrals. Indeed, our report describes them as

“spectacular and wonderful expressions of the mission of God in His world.”

So many of them are among the pinnacles of our architectural and cultural heritage. They are at the heart of their communities, hosting wonderful worship but also everything from graduations to art installations and now vaccination centres.

Cathedrals, like many city centre churches, are also where people go to take the things that they do not know what to do with: often pain or grief or loss or fear—things we have had so much of in the last year. We shall need our cathedrals more than ever in the years ahead, as we move, we hope, out of a pandemic into a place of recovery and healing. Because they hold such a unique place in the heart of our nation, it is crucial that cathedrals are, and are seen to be, well managed and safely governed. These reforms are born out of a desire to ensure that our cathedrals will be around and thriving well into the future.

If we end up with another cathedrals commission in another 25 years, I trust that at least then it will not be down to failures of governance, safeguarding or oversight. I commend this Measure to the House.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee), Chair, Ecclesiastical Committee (Joint Committee) 8:10 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, I was chairman of the first advisory council of St Paul’s. I thought it worked very well, and I worked very closely with the then dean. I was also the chairman of a visitation to Exeter Cathedral. As I have already said this evening, I am chair of the Ecclesiastical Committee.

Members of the Ecclesiastical Committee had the opportunity, individually, to look at earlier drafts of this Measure. There were some concerns and we —individual members, not the committee itself—have had the most useful discussions with both the Charity Commission, particularly the chairman, whom I thank very much, and the Third Church Estates Commissioner, who spoke to me in particular and has done an absolutely brilliant job, for which I commend her. The draft that passed through synod came to us as the Measure at the Ecclesiastical Committee. A number of members of the committee, including two who have spoken this evening, were potentially going to be very critical, but the Measure, if I may say so personally, is excellent. It was very carefully scrutinised over quite a long time by the Ecclesiastical Committee. We were helped enormously by the advice and evidence of the Church of England, and we had no difficulty whatever, at the end, in deeming unanimously that the Measure was expedient. Consequently, with great pleasure, I commend it to the House.

I would add only one more thing. Speaking entirely personally, and not as chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I remain extremely concerned about clergy discipline legislation. I know that a lot of discussion is going on and a number of reports have been written. I hope the Church of England will get together to look very seriously at updating what is, at the moment, a very inadequate system. From what the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, has said, it requires urgent reform. I commend this Measure to the House.

Photo of The Bishop of Durham The Bishop of Durham Bishop 8:13 pm, 22nd April 2021

My Lords, I begin by thanking all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part in the debate for all their comments. Perhaps I should have begun by explaining that my absence from presenting this in person is for exactly the same reason as that of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack: I would have been stuck in London because there are no trains out of King’s Cross from tomorrow morning until Monday morning. I am very grateful that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford is there.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, feels that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford addressed most of his points. The right reverend Prelate has also undertaken to write. If there is anything further that the noble Lord would like to pursue, I suggest that it is probably most appropriate to do it with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, rather than me as the one presenting this. We clearly all agree that radical reform is essential once the current situation has moved forward.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, for saying that she would be happy for me to write. I think it is the most appropriate way of responding to the detailed comments she made about those specific things. I undertake to write to her. I note and put on the record about safeguarding work around core groups that revision work is being undertaken at present on how the groups are constituted and how they work. That particular point is currently being addressed.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his comments and his support of the Measure. It was very good to hear that Lincoln Cathedral worship is still being done so well. I would never have doubted that. On his question about the Charity Commission, yes, it will be able to cope. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, noted, work has been done on that. The Charity Commission is very happy that the Church Commissioners have offered some support. There is to be a memorandum of understanding between the Charity Commission and the Church Commissioners to support the co-regulation of cathedrals. It is in the process of being agreed. The heads of terms of this MoU were approved by both the Charity Commission board and the Church Commissioners’ board of governors in September 2020. The detailed MoU is now in the process of being drawn up. In addition, the Charity Commission and the Church Commissioners are expected to approve a registration protocol later this month to set out how they work in tandem to support and facilitate the cathedrals adopting new constitutions and statutes and applying to the Charity Commission for registration over the next three years.

With regard to church councils, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, for his sterling explanation of why he believes the changes are so supportive. I hope that that acted as a good response to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I note that cathedrals will be able to appoint an advisory body. The great advantage of that is that it will avoid the confusion that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson, pointed to around governance and management. It also means that the advisory council can be made up of key stakeholders and have functions conferred on it by the chapter, which could include non-statutory functions currently undertaken by many councils, including being the critical friend and source of advice to the chapter. The details as to the composition, functions and proceedings of any such body, including accounts, would be set out in the cathedral statutes. This means that the role of an advisory council can be tailored to meet local needs and reflect the circumstances of the cathedral that it serves. With regard to the senior non-exec, the bishop does make this appointment but must do so after conversation and consultation with the chapter, so that it is a collaborative approach.

As to speed of implementation, I happen to know that some cathedrals are chafing and are ready to roll as soon as this has Royal Assent. Indeed, the legal advisers told me earlier today that there was more concern that they were running ahead of it having consent, rather than them being slow to implement.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, for her part on the Cathedrals Working Group. For the record, I am the noble Baroness’s bishop. She is not just a priest in the Church of England, she is a priest in my own diocese. To answer her questions: were all the recommendations of the Cathedrals Working Group accepted? The Archbishops’ Council commissioned the Cathedrals Working Group and asked the synod to set it up. All the recommendations in the report were accepted by the synod but because the Measure itself was subsequently amended by the synod, the way in which some of the recommendations have been implemented are not quite as they are set out in the report. An example would be that the senior vice-chair became the senior non-executive member but, in essence, yes, they have been.

Are all the recommendations which require legislative change included in the Measure before the House? Not quite—a small number need to be implemented by amending the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 and so could not be implemented through this Measure. These recommendations are fairly minor and relate to the terms of service of residentiary canons.

It had been intended to bring amending regulations to the General Synod in July 2020, to tee up the changes to the regulations, with final approval coming later. However, due to the lockdown and its impact on the life of the General Synod, that has been slowed down. The amending regulations will now be brought before General Synod for consideration in July 2021. If approved by the General Synod, those amending regulations are expected to come into force for each cathedral on the date certified for the adoption of its new constitution and statutes under the new Measure. Therefore, the delay to the amending regulations being considered by synod will have no practical implications, as no cathedral will have adopted its new constitution and statutes before this summer anyway.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked about the plan to implement the non-legislative recommendations. They are being and will continue to be implemented through new guidance and template policies and training to support the new governance structures.

On the question about the Church moving to create an independent body to oversee its safeguarding practices in the wake of IICSA and whether this will cover the cathedral sector too—yes, absolutely. It is expected that any independent body which oversees safeguarding across the national Church will provide this function to cathedrals. Indeed, the first steps towards the creation of an independent body are now well under way on an interim basis, ahead of a longer-term, full-scale, independent set-up.

I hope that, except where I have undertaken to write, I have responded to all the questions raised by noble Lords. I thank them all for the enthusiastic support given to the Measure. I undertake that concerns raised around the Clergy Discipline Measure and so on are well heeded. At the July synod, the equivalent of a White Paper will be presented on what future changes might be required. Then, assuming that is taken note of, we will move ahead to necessary reforms to the CDM. I note in passing, as one who has to enact the CDM—and, indeed, has been subject to it—that in most cases it works quite effectively. The difficulty is that on some specific issues, often related to safeguarding, all of us concerned recognise that reform is essential. One of the key things there is the rights and the protections of clergy themselves when they face false accusations and difficulties.

With all that, and with thanks again for the support for this Cathedrals Measure, I commend it to your Lordships’ House.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 8.23 pm.