HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 cc1241-2
25. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what the current plans are for the funding of mission activities and for the future of the section 23 grant for cathedrals with respect to the recent decision made by Synod; and if he will make a statement. [158942]

Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell)

The Church Commissioners' spending plans for 2005–07 will be developed over the coming months in the light of the actuarial evaluation of the commissioners' fund, and they will take on board views expressed by Synod kind others in the Church.

Michael Fabricant

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that answer, but does he not realise that many cathedrals and diocese are concerned that money might be diverted from mission duties and the funds available to cathedrals for restoration, and instead given to other worthwhile causes such as the maintenance of parish churches? What can he do to assure them—including, of course, Lichfield cathedral—that that will not happen?

Sir Stuart Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question and I welcome him back to our Question Time; I thought that he had deserted us for a while. Having visited Lichfield cathedral, I can well understand his concern about this matter. He is certainly right in that during the early 1990s the decision was taken heavily to Cut parish ministry support, which then stood at some £60 million. However, he should know that in 2003 the commissioners provided £2.5 million in grants to cathedrals under section 23 of the Cathedrals Measure 1999; in addition, they spent £3.8 million on cathedral clergy stipends. Having visited Lichfield cathedral last summer, I am looking forward to visiting it—and, of course, other cathedrals—this summer.

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