HC Deb 23 October 1989 vol 158 cc471-2
57. Mr. Cran

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what is the latest figure he has for the number of churches that the Commission has given permission to be (a) demolished and (b) used for other purposes since 1979.

Mr. Alison

Since 1979, the Church Commissioners have made schemes under the Pastoral Measure authorising the demolition of 109 redundant churches and the appropriation to suitable alternative uses of 374 others. A further 115 have been placed in the care of the Redundant Churches Fund.

Mr. Cran

At some point, could my right hon. Friend provide information about the number of churches that have been disposed of, but are now used by rather more dynamic churches than the Church of England? In relation to the Church of England, does my right hon. Friend agree that a 2.5 per cent. attendance rate on Sundays is a national disgrace and that it is partly attributable to a political clergy?

Mr. Alison

Since 1969, 1,215 churches have been made redundant and new uses, often for the benefit of the wider community, have been found for more than half of those. Very many of them still remain in constructive and positive use for suitable alternative employment—so to speak. The number of people attending Church of England Sunday worship services is mercifully not subjected to anything equivalent to the Whips' Office in this House. Nevertheless, the numbers—without whipping—are tending to increase Sunday by Sunday.

Mr. Tony Banks

What criteria are adopted by the commissioners when they consider alternative uses for redundant churches? Would using a church for bingo or as a McDonald's hamburger restaurant be acceptable to the commissioners? One or two churches in my area are so affected.

Mr. Alison

If the hon. Gentleman would like to make positive proposals, the Church Commissioners, who are always after making a reasonable profit on their assets to the benefit of the retired clergy, would consider sympathetically anything that the hon. Gentleman might propose. The hon. Gentleman would have to exercise his usual discretion and wisdom so as not to make any really untoward proposals for alternative use.