Examination of Synod Representatives (Questions
MONDAY 22 APRIL
40. At law a child does not have any age attached
to it and normally if the word "child" is used in any
relevant context then an age is given. So I am wondering whether
in clause 1 "child" is meant to be progeny or whether
it is meant to be under 21 or under 18 or something like that.
(Sir James Nursaw) My Lord Chairman, could I suggest
the Committee leaves this for further consideration later? I suggest
one possible answer is that as this is a discretion given to the
Board it would use that discretion to support young children but
possibly also children who had reached adulthood but were in need
of help because they were handicapped or disabled in some way.
So perhaps there is advantage in the flexibility of the term.
41. I do not think there is any age attached
to "child", if I may say so, unless one is put in by
statute or measure.
(Sir James Nursaw) I am suggesting that is perhaps
the right way to leave it, because of the possibilities and the
fact there is a discretion.
Lord Brightman: I only ask the question in order
to find out what was in mind.
Baroness Rendell of Babergh
42. Also, my Lord Chairman, what is a "dependant"?
Surely that should be defined?
(Sir James Nursaw) Again I suggest, my Lord Chairman,
since this is a discretion given to the Board they would not act
unless there is a dependency which is obvious and manifestly in
need of help.
43. The third question is, am I right in thinking
that the General Purposes Fund will hereafter be applicable for
(a) to (d) in section 1(2) plus the existing purposes of the General
Purposes Fund and, if so, what are those purposes?
(Mr Slack) My understanding of the effect of the provision
is that the fund will in future be applicable by virtue of sub-clause
(4) for the purposes specified in sub-clause (2).
44. And not the existing purposes of the General
(Mr Slack) That is as I understand it.
45. Do you know what those purposes are?
(Mr Slack) My Lord Chairman, yes, as I understand
it they are in substance the same, that is to say the General
Purposes Fund was established for the collective purposes of the
three funds which are referred to in clause 2, and those purposes
are, in the aggregate, those set out in sub-clause (2) of clause
1, with the addition of a reference to former spouses of some
of the beneficial classes in order to reflect the amendment that
is made in clause 3 of the Measure.
Chairman: Would it be the view of the Committee that
we should now ask Dr Turnbull if he has got anything he would
like to say by way of reply to all the questions which have been
asked, and then perhaps we might ask him, with our great good
thanks, to retire while we deliberate?
46. My Lord Chairman, there is the important
issue of the clergy wives, particularly those who have been divorced.
It really follows on from the point Mrs Dunwoody made about the
nature of this fund. I can understand how the sums are up-dated
but let us assume that the Church of England became conscious
of the need to support rather differently the wives of clergy
who operate their pensions under the old system and decided they
ought to be more generous, let us say, without discussing the
issue, to the divorced wives. Is there a means whereby under this
fund, which we now think of as a closed fund, alterations can
be made of that kind? Many of us on this Committee, as I think
Dr Turnbull knows, have been very unhappy about the way in which
the Church of England has dealt with divorced wives, particularly
in view of its doctrinal position. Therefore, if it were to have
a change of heart, which I devoutly hope that one day it will
have, and treats them better, will it only be able to treat decently
those who are under the new system, or will it be able to go back
and say, "We are now going to look after those people better
who have borne the heat of the day and been dumped just at the
wrong moment by their errant spouses", to put it in an entirely
(The Reverend Dr Turnbull) Of course! My understanding
is that the discretionary funds of the Pensions Board are able
to be applied in support of any clergy pensioner and, after the
passing of this Measure, the divorced spouse of any clergy pensioner,
and it makes no difference at all whether the pension of the particular
cleric is funded by the old scheme or the new scheme. I am told
that is correct. It is a discretionary fund of the Pensions Board
covering all pensioners and dependants and spouses.
47. Can I take comfort from the fact that there
is a specific reference, although it appears to refer to housing,
to the divorced wives of clergy, that there may be some consideration
of their pension position? In the past, the answer I have got
is that the Church follows the best example of the world, which
always seems to me to be the wrong way round, I would always hope
the Church would lead the world in setting the best example. Are
we to hope that something better will now be done as a result
of the kind of language we now have?
(The Reverend Dr Turnbull) I would just like to take
some advice on that, if I may. (After taking instructions)
My Lord Chairman, the advice from the Secretary of the Pensions
Board is that the position as it currently stands is that a divorced
spouse can be assisted now on the grounds of low income, but cannot
be assisted now in respect of housing. So what this new provision
will do is correct that anomaly in respect of housing.
Mr Gummer: Thank you very much.
48. Dr Turnbull, it remains for me to thank
you very much and all your colleagues for helping us in the way
you have. Did you wish to add any final sentence or two for our
(The Reverend Dr Turnbull) I would simply like to
thank the Committee for your graciousness and welcome, and wish
this Committee all the best in its deliberations over the rest
of this Parliament. Thank you.