Ecclesiastical Committee

31.48Measures agreed to by the General Synod are submitted by its Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Members of both Houses set up under the 1919 Act. The Ecclesiastical Committee is different in form from the usual joint committee (see Chapter 41) since it is a statutory body and its proceedings are not proceedings in Parliament; but the Committee has power by statute to regulate its own procedure except as otherwise provided by s 2 of the 1919 Act, and has in fact done so in terms of a resolution (22 March 1921) to adopt the procedure of joint committees.

The Committee is appointed for the duration of a Parliament and consists of 15 Members of the House of Lords nominated by the Lord Speaker, and the same number of Members of the House of Commons nominated by the Speaker.1 Casual vacancies are filled by nominations by the Lord Speaker or the Speaker of the House of Commons, as the case may be.2 The quorum of the Ecclesiastical Committee is 12 of its members, and the Committee may sit whether Parliament is sitting or not, and notwithstanding a vacancy in its membership. The Committee appoints its own Chairman, who has always been a Member of the House of Lords and since 1947 always a serving or retired judge. The Committee has appointed sub-committees.3

When a Measure is submitted to the Ecclesiastical Committee (along with such comments or explanations as the Legislative Committee may deem it expedient or be directed by the General Synod to add), it is considered with a view to the presentation to Parliament of a report dealing with its nature and legal effect. The report contains also the Committee's views on the Measure's expediency ‘especially with relation to the constitutional rights of all Her Majesty's subjects’. The Ecclesiastical Committee may not amend a Measure. Witnesses are not heard; but representatives of the Synod assist the Committee in its consideration of a Measure and a conference between the Legislative Committee and the Ecclesiastical Committee concerning a Measure may be arranged at the instance of either committee.4 A meeting with representatives of the Synod, or a conference, is held in public and a transcript of the proceedings published with the Committee's report. Other parts of the Committee's deliberations are held in private.

The Ecclesiastical Committee is bound, before presenting its report to Parliament, to communicate it in draft to the Legislative Committee, and not to present its report to Parliament until the Legislative Committee signifies its desire that it shall be so presented (see para 31.49, fn 3). If the Legislative Committee signifies such a desire, the Measure and report are presented forthwith to both Houses and printed as parliamentary papers. If at that time Parliament is not sitting, the presentation is made immediately after the next meeting of Parliament. In addition, the Legislative Committee may, at any time before the presentation of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report to Parliament, withdraw a Measure from the further consideration of that Committee and has invariably done so in the face of an unfavourable draft report.5


  1. 1. For example, Minutes of Proceedings, 27 July 2010, and Votes and Proceedings, 26 October 2010.
  2. 2. For example, LJ (2002–03) 67; CJ (2007–08) 433.
  3. 3. Ecclesiastical Committee, Minutes of Proceedings I, 253 and 379 (20 July 1927 and 21 May 1930).
  4. 4. For example, 19 March 1964 (Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure); 13 February 1989 (Clergy (Ordination) Measure); 5 July 1993 (Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure and Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure (see HL 116, HC 895 (1992–93) p 125 ff)); 24 May 1999 (Churchwardens Measure). For assistance by Members of the General Synod, see Ecclesiastical Committee, 236th Report – published 14 March 2018 (HL 91, HC 749 (2017–19), Minutes of Proceedings).
  5. 5. Clergy Pensions Measure 1923; Parsonages Measure 1928; Ecclesiastical Fees Measure 1961; Churchwardens Measure 2001; Church of England (Pensions) Measure 2001. In the case of the Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1964, the Committee reported adversely on a part of the Measure. When the Measure was laid it was divided into two and the Clergy (Ministration to Non-Resident Electors) Measure, which contained the provisions to which the Committee had objected, was not proceeded with, see HL Deb (1963–64) 258, cc 368–71.