Law and religion round-up – 10th November

A new Commons Speaker, more on historical institutional abuse, opposite sex civil partnerships and the parochial fees for 2020 – at last…

IICSA: latest Government response

The Government has responded to recommendation 3 of the IICSA report on 9 May 2019, Anglican Church Case Studies: the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball. The report recommended that

“The Government should amend Section 21 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 so as to include clergy within the definition of a position of trust. This would criminalise under s16–s20 sexual activity between clergy and a person aged 16–18, over whom they exercise pastoral authority, involving the abuse of a position of trust.”

In short, the response seems to be saying, “we’re thinking about it”.

Historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland

The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] passed through all its stages in the Commons on Tuesday and received Royal Assent. The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019, which is based on the recommendations of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry chaired by the late Sir Anthony Hart, a former judge of the Northern Ireland High Court, does two things: it establishes a Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board to administer a publicly-funded compensation scheme for victims and it creates a statutory Commissioner for Survivors of Institutional Childhood Abuse, who will act as an advocate for victims and survivors and support them in applying to the Redress Board.

A curious incident in the Commons on 4 November?

No prayers were read in the Commons: that appeared to the curious incident. The practice of holding prayers in Parliament dates back as far as 1558 and has been in place continuously since the reign of Charles II. However, as Frank explains:

“There wasn’t anything curious about the absence of Prayers on 4 November: the reason for the absence is that the House was electing the Speaker. The same thing happened the last time a Speaker was elected, as is evident from the Votes & Proceedings for the first sitting day of the last Parliament. I think that the reason for the omission is that the House isn’t properly constituted unless the Mace is on the Table – and it isn’t brought in until after the Speaker has been elected.”

On 31 October, tributes were paid to the outgoing Speaker’s Chaplain, the Revd Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, as she left to become the Bishop of Dover. She will be consecrated in a service at St Paul’s Cathedral on 19 November and installed at Canterbury Cathedral on 30 November. The Revd Canon Tricia Hillas has been appointed Chaplain to the Speaker and is expected to take up her new appointment early next year. 

Parochial Fees for 2020

Our posts on parochial fees are some of the most widely-accessed items on L&RUK, and over the past week or so there has been a noticeable increase in searches for those applicable in 2020. On 5 November we posted a summary of the Church of England’s Table of Parochial Fees from 1 January 2020 (“the Table”), prepared by the Archbishops’ Council, which is now available on the C of E website as an A3 table and as a short A4 summary.

Next year’s fees are of most interest to those planning a wedding, and from the announcement by the Consumer Prices Index for August by the Office for National Statistics on which these would be based, we anticipated that the increases would be quite modest. It turns out that the legal fees for a couple getting married in 2020 are £9 or £10 higher, depending upon whether they are marrying in the parish in which they live, or not. The corresponding fees for the Church in Wales are not yet available.

Civil partnerships for opposite sex couples

The draft Civil Partnership (Opposite-sex Couples) Regulations 2019 was the last piece of debatable business in both Houses before Parliament was dissolved prior to the General Election on 12 December 2019; this was the first of the provisions of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019, which require secondary legislation and are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

Had the agreement not been reached, there would have been only a narrow window of opportunity before the “sunset clause” came into effect on 31 December – it has been announced that the new Parliament will first meet on 17 December. Nevertheless, there were a number of items of unfinished business which were awaiting analysis of consultations which had been completed earlier in the year. This will be reviewed in a future post.

Marriage registration changes

The present uncertainty with changes to the marriage registration was succinctly identified by the Church’s Faculty Office on 5 August 2019:

“As the necessary Regulations have not yet been laid before Parliament, the implementation timescale and the timelines for lodging a completed Marriage Document/Schedule with the Registry Office set out in this article remain liable to revision.”

On 6 September, Dr Sandra Millar, the Church of England’s Head of Life Events, discussed the possibility of changes to marriage registration systems, and stated:

“There has been no decision taken about the timeframe and we are still in discussions to agree both the timeframe and the detail of the changes so that they can be effectively implemented for all Church of England clergy.

Updates will be posted on www.churchofengland.org as well as on www.churchsupporthub.org and the website that gives couples planning to marry in church all the information they need www.yourchurchwedding.org will also be updated when the timescale is agreed”.

No further updates have been issued by the Church of England, but on 31 October, Victoria Atkins, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department stated that “Officials are working with the Church of England and the Church in Wales on the details of the proposals, and a timescale will be announced in due course”. However, in Church Commissioners’ Questions on 31 October, Dame Caroline Spelman, Second Church Estates Commissioner, suggested an interim solution to the other component of the changes to registration – that of how mothers’ names might be included on a marriage certificate, an issue on which she promoted her own Private Member’s Bill in the 2017-19 session.

Quick links

And finally…I

The BBC reports that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has declared that “Schools should not be used as polling stations in the general election, to avoid disrupting nativity plays and Christmas concerts.” But we’d have thought there was quite a strong precedent for affairs of state interfering with Christmas: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…

The same thought occurred to The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley.

And finally…II

“Exit Day” has been redefined for the third time through The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2019. Following the aspirational nonsense which resulted in the Royal Mint melting down fifty pence “Brexit coinage” bearing the date 31 October, the most recent proclamations on new coinage are “future-proofed” and refer only to “the date of the year” (whenever and if ever that happens).

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