Law and religion round-up – 6th November

A week of U-turns, from the Government on COP27 and from within the Church of England on same-sex marriage…

…culminating with today’s announcement from No 10 that “The Prime Minister has decided to proclaim an additional bank holiday to mark the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III next year”. There was a more nuanced Press Release from Scotland, which stated “The Proclamation of the bank holiday will be delivered to the Privy Council in time for the meeting of Wednesday 9 November”. Perhaps the No 10 Press Office should read s1(3) Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971?

The Bill of Rights Bill again

Cohabitation in England and Wales

In its Second Report of Session 2022–23, The rights of cohabiting partners (HC 92), the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee recommended that the Government “should reform family law to better protect cohabiting couples and their children from financial hardship in the event of separation” and implement the opt-out cohabitation scheme proposed by the Law Commission in its 2007 report on the financial consequences of relationship breakdown and commit to publishing draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny in the 2023–24 Session of Parliament (Recommendation 3)

The Government has rejected the proposal, on several grounds:

  • that existing work on the law of marriage and divorce has to be concluded before considering any change to the law in respect of the rights of cohabitants on relationship breakdown;
  • that the Government has to focus on its commitment to conduct a review of the law of financial provision on divorce and is currently undertaking work as to how this review should best take place;
  • the fact that the Law Commission has recently presented recommendations for reforms to modernise weddings law, and the law on relationships breakdowns of cohabiting couples could not be considered outside the context of any wider reform to the law of marriage;
  • that given that the Law Commission’s 2007 recommendations are now 15 years old, they could not be implemented without a review of the 2007 report and a fresh consultation; and
  • that any future review or fresh consultation of the 2007 proposals would need to take into account any changes which may be made to the law on marriage and the law of financial provision on divorce, and the availability of civil partnerships for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

Catherine Fairbairn has written a helpful (as always) House of Commons Library research briefing, “Common law marriage” and cohabitation.

Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

In reply to a written question from Valerie Vaz (Lab, Walsall South) asking the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport permanently to exempt spending on repairs and renovations to listed places of worship from VAT, Stuart Andrew, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DCMS, replied as follows:

“The Government recognises that listed places of worship represent some of the nation’s finest heritage, and that there are particular burdens to the upkeep of such spiritual architecture. The Government funded Listed Place of Worship Grant Scheme aims to support the works by giving grants that cover the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings in use as places of worship. This supports the effective conservation of these sites.

In 2012, my Department and the Treasury became joint funders, with annual funding increased up to £42 million per annum. I am pleased to confirm this amount of funding has been secured for the current spending period until 31st March 2025. Whilst the government cannot confirm this funding permanently, my officials remain in close contact with the sector and are aware of the ongoing need for support for this scheme” [emphasis added].

The extension of the Scheme to March 2025 was announced on 20 January 2022 but, given the recent economic upheaval, it is reassuring to see the Government confirming that commitment.

We have also learned that the new administrator of the Scheme, East Midlands Business Ltd, is to update the website. Which it badly needs: the current version is dire. EMB is currently conducting a short online survey of users of the current website.

Privy Council solution to irregular burial

On 2 November we posted the second part of our round-up of the previous month’s consistory court judgments which included a link to the Privy Council Meeting on 12 October 2022. In addition to the Notices and Final Orders relating to the closure of burial grounds under the Burial Act 1853 that are regularly encountered in the Minutes, there was an Order made under s1 Burial Act 1855 whereby changes may be made to existing Orders in Council.

Coincidentally on the same day, we received a copy of Re All Saints Pontefract [2022] ECC Lee 6 which provided the back story to this new Order. Essentially, without any permission being sought through the then incumbent and without his knowledge, excavated remains were reinterred in All Saints churchyard in 2015 at a very brief ceremony attended by a deacon of All Saints, who approved the interment, a Roman Catholic priest and a representative of Pontefract and District Archaeological Society (PDAS). In view of an Order in Council which closed the churchyard in 1857, the burial was unlawful.

The illegality came to light when PDAS approached the present incumbent for permission for a stone to mark the interments. The fact that the burial was unlawful was resolved by a successful application to the Privy Council for an amendment to the 1857 Order in Council, so as to permit an exception allowing the interment in the churchyard of the human remains recovered from the site of the former Friary, and by the Deputy Chancellor granting a confirmatory faculty for the interments.

Glyn Samuel Dep Ch acknowledges that a significant amount of the work in preparing this judgment, especially as regards the background in fact and in law, was carried out by Mark Hill KC, Chancellor of the Diocese. There is an analysis in our post, Privy Council solution to irregular burial.

[Readers may be aware that different versions of this post are available on this site. They result from problems encountered on the afternoon of Friday 4 November, and early attempts to resolve them by re-posting.]

Fire safety in places of worship

This week, a correspondent raised with us the 2022 changes to fire safety requirements in England. The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 apply in England only and will be brought into operation on 23 January 2023. The Government will publish guidance later in the year; however, it published an overview fact sheet that was last updated on 23 August 2022.

There is quite a lot of detailed material on the web (including a posting by us). Ecclesiastical Insurance, for example, reminds churches that they need to complete a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment in order to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and that it should be reviewed periodically to remain valid.

Unfortunately, almost all the material on the web predates the new Regulations, and the Opinion from the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod is dated October 2007. If any reader knows of up-to-date guidance on the new Regulations, please let us know and we will help to disseminate it.

Appointments to the episcopate in the Roman Catholic Church

On 2 November 2022, in his blog Ecclesiastical Law, Philip Jones posted An Apostolic Succession for which the recent elevation of a Roman Catholic to the episcopate, presumably Canon Peter Collins, “provides a useful case study of the Roman Catholic law and the equivalent English law concerning the appointment of bishops.”. Philip Jones’s new post complements those in L&RUK on the appointment of diocesan and suffragan bishops within the Church of England.

IICSA final report

David Lamming e-mailed us to say that the IICSA Report of the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse – October 2022 is available in hard copy from IICSA free of charge, on application to

Inner Temple Library

During November the Inner Temple Library will be tweeting 50 tips and tricks collected from the brains of its librarians – everything from search tips, free resources, useful tools, apps, browser extensions and more.

Quick links

And finally…I

The strange case of the archpriest who plotted to poison the personal secretary of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarch while in Berlin: Mamaladze v Georgia [2022] ECHR 922. Just good old-fashioned crime and nothing much to do with “religion” at all, but the press release is worth a read. [With thanks to Dr Georg Neureither.]

And finally…II

Hargreaves v The District Probate Court [2022] EWHC 2605 (Ch) or, “What court would Jesus sue in?”:

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