HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc12-3
24. Mr. Greenway

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what contributions the commissioners intend to make in grants or loans to the proposed church urban fund set up by the General Synod.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners (Sir William van Staubenzee)

"Faith in the City" recommended that the commissioners should contribute £1 million per annum for 10 years. The commissioners are giving sympathetic consideration to this proposal. In November, at the commissioners' request, the General Synod considered and gave general approval to the necessary legislation to allow the commissioners to give loans or grants to the fund.

Mr. Greenway

Will my hon. Friend say whether some clergy will have lower stipends and emoluments as a result of this diversion of Church Commissioners' money to the church urban fund? Bearing in mind that, according to a poll published in a newspaper yesterday, 73 per cent. of those questioned said that they believed in God but only 11 per cent. of them said that they went to church, will some of that money go into the Church's own missionary effort in the inner cities to improve on that rather low figure?

Sir William van Straubenzee

In so far as any money that is spent by the Church Commissioners on anything other than pensions and stipends diminishes the funds available for that purpose, clearly this has that effect, but the Church Commissioners see it as a development of their historic role to help the clergy, especially in the poor parishes. It could perhaps he said, although I have no responsibility for the poll, that it might have an effect in those parts of the country to which this money is directed.

Mr. Frank Field

Do the commissioners accept that the country might pay more attention to the follow-up of "Faith in the City" if the Church moved its staff from one of the plushiest sites in the country to an inner city area?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I would need more notice of that than a supplementary question, but it is always possible that the expense of so doing would be greater than using existing plant, especially if, in the future, it will be possible to use it even more intensively.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that the defeatist attitude of closing inner city urban churches is hardly the spirit in which the Apostles originally spread the word? Will he take it from me that if the clergy spent rather less time on inane sociology and more time on teaching the scriptures they might fill the churches again?

Sir William van Straubenzee

If I may say so, that is one of those generalities that it is easy to make. Perhaps my hon. Friend and I should say that we laity have a real responsibility in that matter as well.