HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1300-1
22. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con)

How many parish priests were recruited in the first quarter of (a) 1997 and (b) 2004. [174913]

Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell)

The ministry division of the Archbishops Council does not record ordination figures on a quarterly basis. However, I can tell my hon. Friend—the hon. Lady has put so many questions to us over the past few years that she is now an hon. Friend—that in the whole of 1997 there were 262 newly ordained stipendiary deacons available for deployment, compared with 333 in 2003.

Miss McIntosh

I welcome the large upturn in recruits to parish priesthood. I hope that he will join me in recording the valuable role and the pastoral care that rural vicars in particular provide, especially in constituencies such as the Vale of York which suffered so much during the foot and mouth crisis and subsequently. To what does the hon. Gentleman attribute the change? Does he believe that it will continue for the foreseeable future?

Sir Stuart Bell

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's comments and her support for clergy, especially in her constituency, where I know she spends some time and follows these matters carefully. Although the number now deployed is up, there is still likely to be a fall in the stipendiary clergy due to retirements. That fall is from 9,109 in 2003 to 8,691 in 2007. However, the Church's commitment and the commitment reflected in the newly ordained stipendiaries is a reflection of a commitment to faith in the 21st century.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

Is it not a fact that because the Church cannot afford ministers these days, fewer are coming into the ministry and many churches depend on retired ministers to meet their commitment to hold holy communion services on a Sunday?

Sir Stuart Bell

I surmise that the fact that there is a difficulty in securing clergy for every church is due to the numbers of clergy, rather than to the stipend levels. The stipend levels for clergy of incumbent status in 1996–97 were £13,940 and £18,110 respectively. The figures now are £13,910 and £17,140, so the issue of money is taken care of, but the number required is still a problem.