HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc531-2
32. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

What assessment he has made of the financial impact of the proposed extension of local authority licensing to church venues; and if he will make a statement. [85601]

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

I draw the hon. Lady's attention to the Bishop of London's speech in the House of Lords on Second Reading of the Licensing Bill. He highlighted concerns on behalf of churches and cathedrals about the provisions for using places of worship for entertainment such as concerts and plays.

Miss McIntosh

The hon. Gentleman was present when the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who remains in his place, said that a review is under way. Will the hon. Gentleman join me in making urgent representations to the Under-Secretary, especially on the severe impact that such a licensing system would have on rural churches, which are a centre for many social and cultural activities as well as religious services?

Mr. Bell

The hon. Lady knows that the majority of musical events in her constituency take place in churches and chapels, from York minster to humble parish churches, including her own parish church of Sowerby. She will be encouraged to know that in last week's Committee stages of the Licensing Bill, the Bishop of London tabled an amendment to obviate the difficulties that churches would experience. It was supported in Committee. The Minister for the Arts said that she would consider it and we hope for a positive outcome in the House of Lords.