HC Deb 28 November 1988 vol 142 cc428-9
75. Mr. Alton

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what assistance is available to parishes in the inner cities to enable church renovation to be undertaken.

Mr. Alison

In certain cases assistance for inner city parishes may be sought from the diocese, which can seek grants, for instance, from the church urban fund, but those funds are limited. Help may also be available from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, local authorities, national and local trusts and charities. I have placed a list of grant-making bodies compiled by the Council for the Care of Churches in the Library of the House.

Mr. Alton

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for going to that trouble. Does he agree that it would be in line with the spirit of the "Faith in the Cities" report if more funding could be made available to churches in inner cities such as Liverpool, where churches are having to consider selling local variants of the Mappa Mundi? One church in my constituency is considering selling a prize piece of stained glass to try to pay for a crumbling Victorian edifice. Does he agree that that is an unfortunate position in which to place churches, and that additional assistance is needed?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government can provide help in maintaining the fabric of individual parish churches, but not cathedrals. The church urban fund is generating a huge amount of voluntary giving, although there is always more to be spent than the sums available. The Church Commissioners would have been delighted to give more than the £1 million a year that they give to the church urban fund, were it not for the priority that we have to give to clergy pensions and stipends. I believe that an enormous amount of ground is still to be made and I would encourage the hon. Gentleman and my fellow commissioners to do everything possible to encourage voluntary giving for inner city parishes.