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Draft Legislative Reform revised

24 February 2017

THE Synod revised the Draft Legislative Reform Measure on Tuesday afternoon.

Introducing the debate on the revision committee’s report, the Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George, said that this Measure was a small but important part of the ongoing simplification agenda. It would speed up the process of making ecclesiastical law, by achieving what used to take three sessions of the Synod in just one meeting.

Because of the risk of misuse of these new powers, many safeguards had been added, he said. These included reducing the scope of the new powers to only removing burdens to mission from existing legislation, and ensuring that the most foundational laws of the Church were totally exempt. Among other checks and balances, a sunset clause had been added to limit the duration of the powers to five years, unless expressly extended by Parliament.

Mike Stallybrass (York) said that he had initially approached the Measure with an “extremely sceptical mind”, especially given his mother’s experiences under the Quisling government of Norway. “Throughout my growing years, we were very conscious as a family about the way that power could be used and abused.” But during the deliberations of the committee he had had a “conversion experience”, and was now no longer sceptical, but convinced that the new legislation was necessary and proportionate.

The Revd Christopher Smith (London) thanked the committee for working so had to allay his fears about the scope of the Measure. During this process he had discovered “with horror” that every time he sent his curate to conduct a funeral at Golders Green Crematorium he was in breach of Section One of the Church of England Miscellaneous Provisions Measure 1992. “I may now have to go myself on Friday,” he joked.

David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) expressed thanks to the legal officers of the Synod for their extensive drafting efforts, and also thanked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman, for her involvement.

Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) also thanked the committee for its patience in handling her questions and allaying her doubts over the Measure.

Dean George responded to the debate by reminding the Synod that it had to “use it or lose it”, as the sunset clause was unlikely to be extended after five years if the new powers had not been utilised often.

The Synod took note of the report, and no further amendments were moved during the revision stage.

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