I use this page to store all of the statements, updates and Parliamentary Questions that I issued, and asked, during our successful campaign to prevent Church Commissioner plans to remove the Bishop of Bath and Wells from the City, his home for 800 years.
The petition attracted over 2000 signatures and I made history by presenting this at General Synod.
Archbishops’ Council committee upholds objection to moving residence of Bishop of Bath and Wells
The Committee appointed by the Archbishops’ Council to hear an objection to a Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence of the Diocesan Bishop of Bath and Wells has upheld this objection from the Bishop’s Council. This means that the the exchange of residence from the Palace in Wells to The Old Rectory in Croscombe will not now go ahead.
The Committee, which met in Wells from 28-29 April, issued its ruling today, having considered the grounds of objection, and all relevant circumstances, to the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the residence.
“I was honoured to have the opportunity to give evidence as a witness on behalf of the Diocese of Bath and Wells and I’m absolutely delighted that the Archbishops Council has been just and fair and made a common sense decision which will be welcomed and supported by the whole of the Diocese.
The City of Wells will give a collective jump for joy and can’t wait to welcome the new Bishop, and his family to his house in the Palace!
A big thank you to Archbishops’ Council, The General Synod of the Church of England, The Diocese, The Palace Trust, our previous Bishop and his wife and everyone who signed our petition.”
The full determination with reasons can be found here:
1st May 2014
Parliamentary Questions: Church Commissioners, Bishop of Bath and Wells
Tessa Munt: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what consideration the Church Commissioners gave to the historical or other interest of the residence at the Bishop’s Palace at Wells before planning alternative accommodation for the bishop in accordance with section 4 of the Episcopal Endowments and Stipends Measure 1943. 
Sir Tony Baldry: Section 4 of the Episcopal Endowments and Stipends Measure 1943 applies only where the Commissioners propose to exercise a power conferred by that Measure—that is to say, to transfer a house to the diocesan authority, convert it for use for other purposes, sell, let or otherwise dispose of it, or demolish it or part of it. The Commissioners have not exercised any of those powers in relation to the Palace, as the intention is that the Bishop will continue to work and worship there.
Tessa Munt: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will publish a complete list of the grounds considered valid for the purposes of an objection to the exchange of the house of residence of the Bishop of Bath and Wells by the Bishop’s Council and Standing Committee. 
Sir Tony Baldry: It is for the Archbishops’ Council, or any committee appointed by it to consider the objection, to decide whether the objection should be upheld or not. That decision will depend on the specific facts of the particular case. The Archbishops’ Council is required by virtue of the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009 to consider “all relevant circumstances”, which includes but is not limited to the grounds of the objection. There is therefore no such list in existence.
19th March 2014
Update on the Bishop of Bath and Wells’ removal from the City
Today, the Board of the Church Commissioners is meeting in private to discuss a range of financial matters. Tessa has been informed that the future residency of the Bishop of Bath and Wells in on the agenda.
Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, is rumoured to have written a note to the Board as he unable to attend. This is thought to give his ‘take’ on the ‘activities’ that have taken place both in Wells and Westminster following the Commissioners’ announcement of plans to remove the Bishop from the flat in the Palace in Wells.
“We’ve shown Sir Tony the private flat and gardens at the Bishop’s Palace, we’ve had a public meeting, we’ve heard the wise advice of the Diocese and the Palace Trust, we’ve delivered a petition which gathered over 2,000 signatures to the Church of England’s General Synod and to Parliament, Questions have been asked of the Church Commissioners and the Leader of the House of Commons in Parliament and at General Synod, I’ve raised this with the Speaker of the House of Commons and even questioned the Prime Minister on this matter.”
“Now the Board of the Church Commissioners is debating the issue behind closed doors, I’m hopeful that the Board Members will come to the only common-sense outcome possible.”
“Today, I am renewing my call, and those of over 2,000 others, for the Church Commissioners to pause, consult widely and rethink their proposal to remove the Bishop of Bath & Wells and his family from the accommodation in the Bishop’s Palace.”
“I am cautiously optimistic that a positive announcement will follow the Board’s meeting today. I am sure the Commissioners are aware that everyone who signed the petition, including me, will not lose interest in this and move on. That certainly isn’t going to happen!”
“I have written to seek permission from the Speaker of the House of Commons to hold an adjournment debate about this proposal. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, who answers for the Church Commissioners in Parliament, will then be obliged to answer my questions in the public domain, rather than behind closed doors.”
Local residents will be reassured that the campaign to keep the Bishops of Bath & Wells at home in the Palace as has been the case for over 800 years, continues.
The City of Wells made history today when local MP Tessa Munt presented a petition of more than two thousand signatures to the General Synod of the Church of England on the first day of its meeting at Church House, Westminster.
The petition was based on the wording of a motion proposed by the Venerable Dick Acworth and supported overwhelmingly by those at a packed meeting in Wells just over a fortnight ago. Tessa had called the meeting in order that local people could make their views known to Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
The petition calls for the Church Commissioners to pause, to allow the new Bishop to move into the Bishop’s Palace in Wells and for the Commissioners to reconsider and to consult widely before making a final decision on the Bishop’s accommodation.
Speaking from Westminster, Tessa said:
“This is an important day in the campaign to ask the Church Commissioners to listen to the people they are here to represent, but it’s by no means the end!
I plan to present another petition to Parliament tomorrow and have tabled a further Parliamentary Question of Sir Tony Baldry, who represents the Church Commissioners in Parliament.
Furthermore, I have re-opened the petition on my website since it exceeded the target of 1,500 signatures. I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time and trouble to sign and share the petition so far.
I am meeting with Members of Synod this evening in Parliament to discuss how we can progress this campaign – I think everyone would be shocked if this petition does not provoke a public statement from the Church Commissioners.”
Tessa will update everyone who has contacted her as the campaign progresses. If anyone would like to request updates, please email or write to her.
10th February 2014
Petition: Keep the Bishop in the Bishop’s Palace Campaign
Many people have contacted me about the Church Commissioners’ plan to prevent the new Bishop of Bath and Wells from living in the flat in the Bishop’s Palace.
I am writing to provide an update and to ask for your help by signing my email petition below.
I had hoped that when Sir Tony accepted my invitation to visit Wells last Saturday in order to answer the many questions raised by local people, the Church Commissioners would have made a supreme effort to brief him fully. However, questions remain as to exactly why the Church Commissioners have come to the conclusion that the flat in the Bishop’s Palace is “not suitable” for the incoming Bishop and his wife – who have not been consulted on the matter.
Towards the end of Saturday’s meeting, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of Dick Acworth’s motion calling for the decision to be reviewed. Dick’s motion stated: “This meeting believes that the Church Commissioners have made a serious mistake and should reconsider”. There was one abstention; there were no votes against. I have written to the Church Commissioners to inform them of the result. I await their response and will let you know what they say.
Over the last seven days, there have been articles in The Daily Telegraph and The Times, following on from a very helpful article in ‘Country Life’ last Wednesday. Today, I asked the Prime Minister about the Bishop’s accommodation during our weekly Prime Minister Questions’ session in the House of Commons. I am pushing for a meeting with the Prime Minister in his capacity as an Ex-Officio Member of the Church Commissioners as he may have some influence on the outcome.
I have asked many Parliamentary Questions of Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner responsible to Parliament. Copies of the questions and his answers on behalf of the Church Commissioners are available online at this link. I am sure you will agree that his answers are in no way adequate. As a result, I have filed more Questions.
I am launching a petition for presentation both in the House of Commons and to the General Synod using the wording of Dick Acworth’s motion as its basis, calling for the Church Commissioners to pause, to allow the new Bishop to move into the Bishop’s Palace, to reconsider and to consult widely before making a final decision.
An e-petition is available below for you to sign and share, if you feel you would like to do so. I would ask you to forward this to your neighbours, friends and family and to do so as soon as possible, as my aim is to present a copy of the petition to Parliament and to the General Synod of the Church of England on 10th February 2014.
If you have neighbours, friends and family who do not have access to the internet, I would ask that they please write to me at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA to request hard copies.
This is also the address for the return of completed pages – which should be with me before the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England on 10th February 2014 please – the Monday after next.
I know some were unable to attend the meeting on Saturday, and I regret any disappointment caused. Unfortunately, the times offered by Sir Tony Baldry were limited by other commitments locally, and it was difficult to find a venue large enough and available at what was relatively short notice.
I am very grateful to the Trustees, staff and volunteers at the Wells Museum for hosting Saturday’s meeting at such short notice.
Statement from the Bishop of Taunton and senior staff of the Diocese of Bath & Wells re: Bishop of Bath & Wells accommodation
Despite ample time and opportunity, the Church Commissioners have failed to undertake effective consultation at a local level. Instead they have taken a unilateral decision which has, sadly, cast a shadow over the announcement of our next Bishop.
Based on the scarce information made available to us by the Commissioners, the Diocese cannot support their decision. If there is a persuasive case for the move, it has yet to be made.
We call upon the Church Commissioners to allow the next Bishop of Bath & Wells to begin his new role in residence at the Palace whilst a full and proper consultation about the long-term plans for the Bishop’s residence and office arrangements takes place.”
Rt Revd Peter Maurice, Bishop of Taunton
The Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
The Ven John Reed, Archdeacon of Taunton
The Ven Andy Piggott, Archdeacon of Bath
Revd Preb Stephen Lynas, Bishop’s Chaplain
Preb Dr Catherine Wright, Dean of Women Clergy
Nick Denison, Diocesan Secretary
Harry Musselwhite, Chair of the Board of Finance
Update: Meeting at Wells Museum to take place on Saturday 25th January 12.00-13.30
The location date and time have now been confirmed as Wells Museum, Saturday 25th January between 12.00 and 13.30. Residents are invited to attend. Tea and coffee will be served and the meeting will finish at 13.30 promptly.
If you would like any information do not hesitate to write to or email Tessa at the addresses below:
Office of Tessa Munt MP
16th January 2014
Tessa meets Church Commissioners in Parliament to discuss new Bishop’s Housing
Yesterday, local MP Tessa Munt met with Sir Tony Baldry MP, who answers to Parliament for the actions of the Church Commissioners, and Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners in Parliament.
Tessa took the opportunity to summarise her constituents’ concerns about the decision to move the new Bishop’s living accommodation away from the City, the historic home of the Bishops of Bath and Wells for some 800 years.
“The meeting lasted over an hour and I expressed my constituents’ disquiet at the Church Commissioners’ actions, particularly the lack of consultation and information. I questioned the Church Commissioners’ claims which mentioned “privacy” and “sustainability” as reasons for the decision and highlighted the baseless nature of these statements.”
“I conveyed the outrage felt locally over the decision to buy back a property sold by the Diocese in April 2007 because it was unsuitable as clergy accommodation and queried the excessive cost involved in the transaction, which it transpires is to be a temporary solution only to the question of where to house the new Bishop and his wife.”
As a result of further discussions with constituents over the course of this week, Tessa has asked further Parliamentary Questions of Sir Tony Baldry requiring answers in writing.
16th January 2014
Tessa receives answer to Parliamentary Question on Bishop’s Move
Having tabled a Parliamentary Question, Tessa has since received an answer from the Church Commissioners.
Tessa has asked further questions which arise from the statement made in the letter.
“I’m meeting with Sir Tony Baldry and Andrew Brown in Parliament this morning. Sir Tony has also agreed to come to Wells to meet local people who are concerned about what is happening”.
I will of course keep people updated when I have a date in the diary”
15th January 2014
Local MP, Tessa Munt has asked the Church Commissioners’ spokesperson in Parliament why the Bishop of Bath and Wells is to be moved from the modest flat within the Bishop’s Palace to a house outside Wells reportedly costing £700,000.
“The Church Commissioners made a decision on 28th November that moving the Bishop away from the Bishop’s Palace would help him carry out his ministry and mission with more “privacy”. We have been blessed with effective and engaging Bishops for as long as I can remember, and the Palace provides a unique, atmospheric and contemplative environment for those involved in its life, including the many visitors.”
“One of the charms of the Palace was the possibility that one might just run into the Bishop or his wonderful wife in the grounds, and in my view, it is a great shame that the chances of being blessed in this way are reduced almost to nothing.”
“It seems extraordinary – at a time when the Church insists it is trying to reach out to people – that the Church Commissioners have made a decision to remove one of its most public figures to a more remote location and at a distance from the very folk it says it wants to attract.”
I hope the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who answers to Parliament, will offer a convincing explanation as to why the Bishop is being moved from our beautiful Bishop’s Palace after 800 years!
7th January 2014