THE Conservative MP for West Dorset, Chris Loder, has tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons seeking to annul legislation passed by the General Synod to reform the Church Commissioners’ governance.
The reforms were approved by the Synod in July (News, 16 July) as a legislative reform order (LRO): a new, simplified process to speed up change without going through the complex and slow Measure process. The stated aim of the reforms was to increase the diversity of future candidates for Commissioner by limiting tenure to ten years and relaxing the qualification on belonging to the Church of England
A motion put by the Revd Paul Benfield during a debate on the LRO sought to send back the proposals for further scrutiny, because it was suggested that they were too important to be dealt with under an LRO, which cannot be amended by the Synod. The motion was lost by just four votes: 140-144.
Mr Loder, who is a churchwarden, described the proposals last Friday as “a fairly considerable change to the governance of the Church of England. . . I think it’s proper that we [Parliament] scrutinise that and ask questions of it.”
The text of Mr Loder’s EDM reads: “That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Legislative Reform (Church Commissioners) Order 2021 (S.I. 2021 No. 842), dated 13 July 2021, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27 July 2021, be annulled.”
Mr Loder said that the purpose of the EDM was to bring forward the LRO for debate in Parliament, so that MPs “can scrutinise whether it’s a good thing or not”.
He had not been lobbied by Fr Benfield, he said, but added: “I feel it my duty as an MP to make sure that we properly discern this and scrutinise it to make sure it is the right thing or not. If not, I hope Parliament will decide accordingly.”
He continued: “We should discern and scrutinise before we permit the law to be changed. . . This is about Parliament doing its job and probably taking a greater interest in the Church of England than it has done before.”
Six MPs have signed the EDM. Besides Mr Loder, they are the Conservative MPs Sir Peter Bottomley, Richard Holden, Jerome Mayhew, and James Sunderland; and a former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron.