HC Deb 16 March 1998 vol 308 cc945-6
38. Mr. Jenkins

What steps the Church urban fund has taken to promote social renewal in poorer areas of the United Kingdom. [32935]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)

Although this is not strictly a matter for the Church Commissioners, I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the Church urban fund celebrates its 10th anniversary in April. It was set up in 1988 in response to "Faith in the City", a Church of England report which drew attention to the increasing levels of poverty in urban areas.

Mr. Jenkins

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and also pass on the thanks of many of my constituents who use St. Martin's community centre in Stoneydelph, which has benefited from urban fund finance. Will he also consider finding funds for Glascote Heath, which is in another part of my constituency, where levels of deprivation are as high as in any major city?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful, as will be the Church Commissioners and the Church urban fund, for my hon. Friend's kind remarks. The St. Martin's community centre is in an area with a high proportion of young and one-parent families, as well as above-average unemployment; the Church urban fund is doing its best for those people. On the wider question of areas to be targeted, the fund targets resources to the poorest areas of England's inner cities and outer estates by awarding grants to local community-based projects. I am sure that if the project to which my hon. Friend refers is eligible, it will be considered by the fund.

Mr. Rowe

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this anniversary constitutes an opportunity to sing the praises of the Church of England, which has not only channelled money into some of the most deprived parts of our cities, but has provided—over many centuries, but especially recently—professional people who do not live in the leafy suburbs and commute into the inner cities, but actually live in the inner cities, and share the difficulties and privations of those among whom they live?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the fact that the fund arose out of "Faith in the City", which was a significant report with considerable consequences. The initial campaign launched as a result of it raised more than £20 million, primarily from the Church community, but with additional support from the corporate sector. The investment and on-going contributions enabled the fund to award more than £3.5 million in grants each year. That is a practical demonstration that the Church as a whole is concerned for, and stands with, the most disadvantaged in our society.