HC Deb 22 June 1964 vol 697 cc4-6
5. Wing Commander Bullus

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what plans he has for the preservation of churches of special architectural or historic interest which are no longer being used for ecclesiastical purposes.

Mr. Rippon

Following the reply I gave on 19th November, 1963, to a Question by my hon. and gallant Friend, I have worked out proposals to provide substantial assistance towards the preservation of such churches. It is proposed that both Her Majesty's Government and the Church of England should make contributions to a Redundant Churches Fund which would be set up for this purpose. I would be ready to contribute to this Fund up to £200,000 over the first five years if the Church authorities contributed from their own resources at least that amount within the same period. In addition, a very small number of redundant churches of exceptional quality might be taken into the care of my Ministry. I hope to introduce legislation as soon as possible.

Wing Commander Bullus

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for this information and expressing pleasure at the happy association of Church and State, may I ask if these proposals are entirely acceptable to Church authorities?

Mr. Rippon

Yes, Sir. They follow closely the recommendations of the Archbishops' Commission on Redundant Churches and they were accepted by the Church Assembly.

Mr. G. Thomas

Do I understand from the reply that this applies only to the Church of England? If so, would the Minister consider churches belonging to other faiths or denominations where there is a special architectural or historic interest, such as churches in which John Wesley preached?

Mr. Rippon

Yes, Sir. I am in touch with the Churches Main Committee about this, and it will be possible to make arrangements for grants to be made to a number of churches of other denominations through the Historic Buildings Councils. It would also be possible under the legislation that I have in mind for redundant churches of the other denominations to be brought into the care of my Ministry.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some non-redundant churches of outstanding interest, such as that at Brixworth, about which I wrote to him recently, are not fully provided for at present and cannot always be provided for under existing arrangements.

Mr. Rippon

It has, I think, been generally accepted that where churches are in use that is the responsibility of the Church authorities.