HC Deb 22 March 1999 vol 328 c18
36. Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the current level of financial support for the parochial ministry to prevent any long-term interregnums in clerical living. [76002]

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

The commissioners put £20 million a year into parochial ministry support. That amount was agreed after detailed discussion with dioceses. A guaranteed annuity is payable for the overwhelming majority of benefices when the incumbent is present. Long interregnums are not encouraged, but their length can be affected by various factors, including the availability of a suitable incumbent.

Mr. Lansley

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if the support available to the parochial ministry is agreed to be adequate to avoid long interregnums, it is undesirable for such interregnums to occur as an instrument of Church policy? I hope that, through the medium of this question, the Church authorities will take that view and seek to implement it.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The Church of England does not generally encourage long interregnums. After nine months, the right of patronage and the legal rights of parochial church council representatives pass to the archbishop of the province, who then has nomination rights.