HC Deb 05 January 2004 vol 416 cc14-5
21. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)(Lab)

How much was paid to insure ecclesiastical buildings from (a) fire and (b) other damage in the latest year for which figures are available. [145847]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy)

I have been asked to reply, in the absence of the Second Church Estates Commissioner.

The information is not collected on a regular basis. In 1998, according to a one-off statistical exercise, parishes' expenditure on insuring their churches' income was £21 million.

Mr. Prentice

A year ago, almost to the day, a crazed axeman with an axe in each hand caused £;200,000 worth of damage in Waltham abbey, knocking the heads off statues and damaging a 14th century stained glass window. That was the worst example of damage last year, but no fewer than one in seven Church of England churches was vandalised last year, and it falls to the parishes, as my hon. Friend will know, to bear the cost of insuring the church. Would it not be fairer for the Church of England to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. A brief question is the best way to conduct hon. Members' affairs. I think the Minister could answer that.

Mr. Lammy

The matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice) refers is a matter for the Archbishops Council, not the Church Commissioners. The council, through the Council for the Care of Churches, published a leaflet on church security and insurance, entitled "Safe and Sound". I am happy to pass on my hon. Friend's concerns to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, through the Archbishops Council.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)(Con)

Can the Minister tell the House whether the Church insures its buildings against acts of God? [Laughter.] If it does, does that not show a certain lack of faith, and if it does not, does that not show a lack of acumen?

Mr. Lammy

That is not a matter that would properly concern the Second Church Estates Commissioner.