A question was asked in the House of Lords yesterday about the appointment of the next Bishop of Guildford. A short debate followed about the length of time between the announcement of a vacancy for a diocesan bishop and the meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission to nominate a successor. The full text of the debate (which did at times stray off topic) is copied below the fold.
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer comments on
The sluggish delinquency of the Crown Nominations Commission.
Bishop of Guildford: Appointment
Tabled by Lord Trefgarne
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Prime Minister is yet in a position to make a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen in respect of a new Bishop for Guildford.
Baroness Harris of Richmond (LD): My Lords, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, the Crown Nominations Commission had its first meeting in early June and will have its second meeting on 21 and 22 July. The Prime Minister awaits the nomination from the Crown Nominations Commission and will then make a recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen, with the hope of an announcement in September.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: I thank my noble friend for his reply, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, will. I mention my having just completed the lengthy but very successful process of choosing a new dean for Ripon Cathedral, in a new and vast super-diocese. Will my noble friend consider sitting down with the Archbishops’ Secretary for Appointments and the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, both of whom do a magnificent job with very few resources, and perhaps with others who have been through this long and involved process, to review and come back with some proposals to streamline that process? Alternatively, should the church be free to appoint its own bishops? I declare an interest as high steward of Ripon Cathedral.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, because of the age profile of the current House of Bishops, I understand that a number of vacancies and some retirements are coming along. I know that the most reverend Primate is conscious of this. The last time this was considered in 2008, the previous Government brought forward some changes to the appointments process. This Government do not have any proposals to change any further but I am sure that these matters ought to be borne in mind.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a slightly broader question about public appointments which have been held up.
Is he aware that since last Monday, the Science Museum Group—I declare an interest as a trustee—has been without a chairman, even though the process to reappoint the excellent Dr Douglas Gurr started as long ago as last summer? Numerous other appointments are awaiting decisions from the Cabinet Office or 10 Downing Street, of which the Science Museum is perhaps the most blatant example at the moment.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I very much take the noble Lord’s point. Leadership in all institutions and bodies is very important and I will take that back. Again, I am very mindful of the point that the noble Lord is making.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, would the Minister find it helpful if the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was made aware of the concern of the House about there being sufficient meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission, so that when there is a pile-up of episcopal vacancies, as it were, there are sufficient meetings to address that? Is the Minister also aware that we very much hope to have legislation by the end of this year so that women can become bishops?
Noble Lords: Hear, hear!
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: They would therefore be eligible, and much overdue, to come into this House.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, what the right reverend Prelate said last is of great importance not only in this House but to the nation as a whole. I wish the deliberations of the General Synod extremely well. I know that when we had a previous exchange the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was going to be made aware of some of the concerns, and it would be extremely helpful if a record of our discussions today were made known to him.
Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): I shall ask a slightly narrower question than the Question on the Order Paper. Is the Minister aware that Guildford is a lovely place and that the cathedral at the centre is superbly sited, although it is in need of funds for repairs? Does he agree that there ought to be a whole raft of people eager to serve in this great role as bishop of Guildford? I hope there is an excellent range of candidates, one of whom will soon be appointed.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I agree with my noble friend. I hope the appointment will be made soon. It is very important that dioceses have bishops at the helm. I am aware that Guildford is in a very beautiful county, the most wooded county in the country. It is a fine place.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, is Guildford a suitable place for fracking?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I am sure that when the new bishop arrives he—or perhaps, if it is some time, she—will consider these things. The important thing is that we need an energy mix in this country. Fracking could well provide that. Clearly it needs to be done carefully and sensitively, but we should not pass this opportunity.
Baroness Berridge (Con): My Lords, I expect that the winds of change will blow through the Anglican Church later this month. Will the Minister outline whether the Government will take this opportunity to look at the selection process for appointments in slightly more detail? Previously, I lived in the north-west of England for nine years. Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Preston and Lancashire are not currently on the Benches of the Lords spiritual but, as of right, Winchester is. That diocese includes the Channel Islands, which are not in the United Kingdom. Is it not time that we had a system of appointment that saw our metropolitan cities represented as of right?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I can safely say that much of this is a matter for the church. There is legislation going back to the 19th century on these matters. At some point perhaps that might be looked at.
Lord Morgan (Lab): My Lords, would it not be desirable if the Prime Minister made no suggestion about appointing the Bishop of Guildford, as would be the case with the disestablished Church in Wales? Would that not greatly liberate the church as an independent body free from the trammels of state interference?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I am not sure that I am inclined to that view. Obviously the Church in Wales and the Church of England have taken different paths. That is a matter for the Church of England.
Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, we should be careful because the Church of Rome appoints its own bishops and takes a great deal longer than the Church of England, which is itself very dilatory. Changes do not necessarily speed up the system.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I am a great believer that if one does not want too much change, one should have some change.
Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, the House is not sitting tomorrow. There was mention of Her Majesty. Tomorrow, Her Majesty is naming the first fleet carrier to have been built since the Second World War. It is the work of 10,000 men and women around our country—a masterpiece of engineering. Would the Minister like to acknowledge and welcome this marvellous event tomorrow?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, the whole nation is extremely fortunate to have a head of state who works so hard on our behalf.