the loss by the Government of its parliamentary majority, life at West
minster is entering a new and exciting phase. For three years the truth of the situation has been that the Government has been hanging on to power by its eyebrows, but thanks to the skill of Sir Harold Wilson and the disunity of the Opposition parties the essential weakness of I.abour's position was concealed.
Nue, thanks to the erosion of by-elections and the debacle over the Devolution Bill, the emperor has been revealed as having no clothes — nr at any rate no votes. From now on both in principle and in practice ee have a minority government.
if all the Opposition parties combine they can turn the (instrument out at any moment they choose: true, their majority is only one sole, but as Sir W Inston Churchill once said. in politics a majority acme is enough. 1 he trusernment's loss is Parliament's gain. In future it will not be the Whips meeting in smoke-filled rooms who will decide the future course of events, but MPs themselves soling according to their on assessments and following their own consciences and interests.
Such situations have existed before in our Parliamentary history. From 1846, when the Tory Party: split over Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws, down to 1868, when the Liberals were returned with a majority of 120 after an election fought largely on the issue of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, minority governments were the rule rather than the exception.
Thus. after the General Election of 1852 Lord Derby's government lasted only a few months and was then replaced In a Whig coalition under Lord Aberdeen. This government was In turn defeated during the Crimean War and replaced by an administration headed by Palmerston: and so it went on. Fiery thing depended on the individual 111/11111M1: at. the Commons, and history has now repealed itself.
This nen situation should be of particular benefit to Private Members' Bills. The Government has not yet declared, its intention of withdrawing the Devirlution Bill, but it can only be ti matter of tires before it does so and there will ire plenty of time for the Report and third Reading stages of Prissily. Members' Hills on the floor of the !louse.
The difficulties the Abortion amendment Bill sill face are those in ( 111T11144W, were it undoubtedly will be fiercely resisted by the proabortionists. I base rarely seen such bitterness and resentment shown to any measure as that displayed in the Commons on Friday when the Bill secured its second Reading.
Mr 11 Ben-,on is going to need every hit of his parliamentary skill to get the measure through the Committee stage. On the slhole. the ( atholic members did nut put up ton bad a showing, especially in the light of their dismal turn out At the Second Reading of the 1967 Abortion Act when 11r Enoch Powell turned 1111 me reproachfully as we were passing through the lobby with with the celebrated phrase: "Where are the Romans?"
By chance we found oursclies next to each other in the lobby last Friday, and I was able to get my remark in first: "where". I asked, "is the Reverend Ian Paisley?" In the Far East. apphrentis founding 12 new churches. A. if they didn't have trouble enough!
I checked up afterward% through the disision lists as to bon Catholics had in fact soled and tame up with some toter; sting material. Of the 37 ( mitotic nicintnis, 25 voted for the Kill. one i :Mr Peter Shape) against and I I ahstained.
1 he It absta' g were NIr Gerry Fitt, Mr James Hamilton. Sir 'I moth!, kiss o. 11r MacCormick, Mr Sinus: :Mahon, Nit Pendry, Sir Peter Rawlinson, Mr Stallard, Mr Tierney. Mrs Shirley W jiljalIN and Mr Dennis Walters.
Before readers rush to their pens and send off furious letters to these ladies and gentlemen. may 1 point out that on Friday. In particular MPs have engagemcnis and it k difficult in many cases to cancel them, although my guess is that a number of these
abstent' 11111e deliberate, Iton quite sure that those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition fall into this category. 'flume opposvd to the Bill resorted 1., OLIN parliamentary device to
defeat it.Firs( of all they attempted to talk It out by raising points of order just before 4 o'clock in the hope that it would be inadvertently torpedoed by the occupant of the Chair.
Vv hen this failed, and after the Closure and the Second Reading had
been passed, they tried to get the Bill sent to a ( rimmittee of the whole House instead of being discussed in Committee upstairs. This ruse might hale heel, successful. and the Bill got hogged down on the flour of the !louse, had it
not been for the vigilance of my fellow • columnist. NIr Kenneth MacNamara. I shall long treasure the memory of his standing at the exit from the lobby
with a makeshift placard informing members that another vote was likely and therefore nut to run off and catch their trains. As it was, in the three cotes the anti-abortionists' total went down from 176 to 170 to 137.
The ("1/11/11111lee stage is going to be long and gruelling. but the stakes are
high. If the Bill passes, the abortion agencies are going In be deprived of • their automatic flow of funds, and we can he sure that before they lose their money there's going to he plenty of muck.
MENEVIA was once described as a make-do-andmend diocese, and with only 40,000 Catholics spread over a vast area of four new counties it is often thought of as a
Enor sister to the Church in ngland and Wales. Mgr
James Hannigan, diocesan treasurer and Menevia's Vicar-General, does not agree. Poverty, he says, is a relative term.
"Other dioceses have vast institutions and organisations to
maintain. In Menevia, because of the missionary nature of the diocese and the sparsity of the
Catholic population, we don't need such a vast structure to service the needs of the parishes.
"Compared with other dioceses which employ substantial staff, we have only one salaried employee."
With only three parishes comprising more than 2,000 parishioners, most of the money that can be raised locally is immediately consumed in the running and maintenance costs of the parish.
The diocese also runs a covenant scheme which last year totalled more than £40,000 in relation to overall offerings in the region of £160.000.
In addition to this, each parish has a number of special collections for such things as the Bishop's Fund, which goes towards the upkeep of Bishop's House and central activities organised by them, the Church Extension Fund. which last year raised between £5,000 and £6,000, and collections for the missions.
The diocese also has a Church Students' Fund, and levies are made on each parish to raise money for the Schools Fund. Sick Clergy Fund, and the annual contribution to the National Catholic Fund.
But the day-to-day running of the parishes is not the major financial problem in Menevia. As Mgr Hannigan explained, items involving large capital outlay such as the building of a new church or school require the most careful consideration.
"It is where capital expenditure is concerned that we really feel the pinch. In former times Bishop Petit would not give permission for any new building to begin until 75 per cent of the estimated cost had been raised by appeals and parish functions. "This policy would he impractical now. I le was fortunate to live in a time when inflation ' as low. Now w e are getting annual jumps in building costs of as much as 30 to 40 per cent, and this policy had to be amended or vitally important buildings would never have been built.
"For example, 'se had to build a new church in Rhyl because our architects advised us that the existing building was in such a poor condition that it would not stand for more than another three to four years. "Left to their own devices, the parish could never have raised the sums of money involved so we had to allow them to borrow, and they are now in debt to the tune of nearly £10,000, "A number of parishes have had to do building jobs in the
last few years. One scheme we have adopted to help them is a joint banking arrangements.
"Instead of putting their funds into separate deposit accounts, all the parishes have current accounts at one branch of the National Westminster Bank. that proportion of our borrowing which is equal to the amount of money, in these current accounts is lent to us at a turnover interest rate of one and a half per cent.
"In this way the richer parishes help to support their struggling brothers."
In recent years much debate had centred around Church investment. Menevia. said Mgr Hannigan, would not invest in companies whose activities contradicted Church principles.
"You would not invest in a company where you knew they were involved in some activity that opposed the objects of the Church or that infringed morality — for example in the production of arms.
"We have no objection to investing in breweries, but there was some disquiet about Distillers at the time of the thalidomide scandal. We withdrew our investment at that time because it seemed they were being less than just to the
victims of the products they had produced. "This highlights a problem. Until the thalidomide issue blew up I don't think that any of us realised that Distillers were involved in anything but making whisky.
"You may he acquainted with one sphere of a company's activities and then suddenly discover I hat one of their whollyowned subsidiaries is involved in something you would not want to he associated with,"
In Menevia, investment decisions were taken by an investment panel comprising Bishop Fox, the president of the Diocesan Education Committee, the consultant solicitor to the diocese and the diocesan stockbroker, accountant and treasurer, They were, however, hound by certain legal constraints.
"If I were introducing a new man to my job, the first thing I would show him would be the trust deed of the diocese. This outlines the legal process for administering the diocese and has an investment clause which describes the powers that the trustees have to make investments.
"Menevia's trust deed was sealed on April 4, 1923, and has a clause preventing the diocese from investing in the Irish Free State.
"Usually. trust deeds reflect the attitudes of the times, and as in 1923 Southern Ireland was in turmoil the Charity Commissioners probably insisted on this clause. If a trust deed was being formulated today perhaps somebody might think of excluding South Africa,"
Most dioceses were also registered charities, and as such were hound by the 1961 Trustee Investment Act. said Mgr Hannigan.
"Before 1961 charities were prohibited from dealing in the ordinary stock of a company and were confined to the giltedged market — war loans for example.
"The 1961 Act allowed charities to go into the equity market but stipulated the type of stock they could invest in. The company must be substantial and have sound financial assets. You would not, for example,.be allowed to invest in a company which did not pay dividends.
"The Act was designed to stop charities making speculative investments. In effect it also prevents you from investing in experimental ventures such as the Meriden motor cycle co-operative or other smaller co-operative projects," Menevia has no investments in companies operating in South Africa, but Mgr Hannigan personally believes in a policy of using shareholder power to influence company policy rather than withdrawing shares in protest. "If we look back a mere 80 years in the history of this country there was grave exploitation, but nobody withdrew their funds and this didn't inhibit progress to social justice."
Menevia does not publish its accounts. and Mgr Hannigan believes that most people do not read balance-sheets. The majority Of people, including priests. are content to know income, expenditure and whether the books are balancing.
"Many parishes in the diocese have parish councils, but unless there is .a special project they don't want to have finance shoved at them all the time. We have discouraged our 'priests from using these councils as fund-raking bodies, us there arc many more important things to discpss,'
Mgr Hannigan said, hoWever, that there was widespread consultation on an informal basis.
"On the schools issue. for example, we have always tried to pro\ ide a Catholic school where the numbers warrant it, but the pressure we have to hear is that we have not built enough. Wales is very educationally minded. and the Catholic community is very anxious to have its own school,.
"In looking at diocesan finance one must have one's priorities right. The question is not so much whether we are applying our resources correctly as whether we are asking for money for the right purposes.
"The parishes arc the vital units of the diocese, and so long as you can service them then I would see diocesan expenditure as secondary."