HL Deb 25 April 1967 vol 282 cc506-26

6.35 p.m.

EARL JELLICOE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what consideration they are giving to the preservation of our cathedrals. The noble Earl said: My Lords, this layman will be fairly brief, because he wishes to learn what the Church, in the person of the right reverend Prelate, and what the State, in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, have to say. My Question is intended to be restricted; it is intended to relate only to the 28 ancient cathedrals in England in the use of the Church of England. It is not intended to relate to the 14 or so more modern Anglican cathedrals. It is not intended to relate to the cathedrals in Scotland or in Wales. It does not relate to the cathedrals in the use of denominations other than the Church of England. But, of course, the principles or matters at which I would invite your Lordships to look, by extension or implication could be applied more widely than to these 28 great English cathedrals.

These cathedrals mean a lot to almost all of us, whatever our denomination or whether we can be denominated. There is the spiritual value; there is the refreshment they bring to those who enter them; there are their long, close and enduring links with the soil from which they spring and there is their splendid music. But it is not of these matters that I was primarily thinking when I put down this Question. It was rather of the cathedrals as buildings, as buildings at the top of the world class in the arts of the architect, the glazier, the mason and the sculptor. We all have our favourites. There are some for which I have a particular penchant: Durham, that complex of Church and State, crouched above the River Wear; Lincoln, riding high over our Eastern plain; Salisbury, with its long and lovely spire rising from the Wiltshire Downs—which I and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, know so well—the great long stride of Exeter, and so on.

We all have our favourites. I am afraid I have not mentioned any with which the right reverend Prelates here are most intimately associated at the moment. Be that as it may, most would agree that the English cathedrals, as a group, constitute one of the supreme manifestations of European and English art. They are frequented every day by more and more people, our fellow countrymen and visitors from abroad. Most of us would feel that these cathedrals, by and large, are carefully tended and maintained; all of us would agree that they should be.

It is not that which worries me; it is rather the cost of this care and whether in future it can satisfactorily be met. These great fabrics are expensive to maintain and may need much restoration. Perhaps, by way of irreverent parenthesis, I may suggest that being, in these two respects, not unlike some of your Lordships, myself included, they should command your special sympathy. In any event, nine appeals for our cathedrals are at present open and I am very conscious of this, living as I do equidistant between Winchester and Salisbury. In all, these appeals amount to over £2½ million; and now, on top of this, we learn of the need for operations of great magnitude to York Minster. We learn that unless this great work is done well and done quickly, the cathedral may be past saving within a decade and a half. We must all wish the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, well in the appeal which he has launched to secure this great national possession.

What chiefly worries me, my Lords, is that we seem to be on something of an upward curve. The sums required to maintain this heritage of cathedrals seem to be increasing. I am not clear why this is so or indeed whether it is so. Is the massive development going on in the vicinity of many of our cathedrals affecting the water tables, as we have heard, and sapping the foundations of the cathedrals? Is traffic the real villain of the piece? Or is it just old-age, aggravated by enforced neglect in the war years and the post-war years?

In any event, the maintenance of these cathedrals and the financial responsibility for them at present rests, if I understand the position correctly, squarely on their deans and chapters. The cathedrals were deliberately excluded from the Ancient Monuments Acts from 1913 to 1953; they have likewise been partly excluded, as I understand it, from quite a lot of our planning legislation. It is true that they are not specifically excluded from the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953, under which the Historic Buildings Council was set up, but they have since been excluded in practice as the result of deliberate Government policy. Likewise, while they are eligible for assistance from the local authorities under the so-called Channon Act of 1962, and although Chichester and possibly also Lincoln have received some assistance from their local authorities under that Act, finance under this Act can hardly be expected to make any great contribution towards their upkeep.

As your Lordships are aware, the position across the Channel is very different. Cathedrals and certain churches classified by the Beaux Arts are owned by the State, and other churches in France are owned by the communes. Elsewhere in Europe, again as I understand the position—for example, in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, Denmark and Sweden—cathedrals are maintained, in varying degrees, by the State. There are, of course, precedents for State intervention closer home. Across the Border the cathedrals of Glasgow and, Dunblane are maintained, and have been maintained since the Reformation, by the State. Parliament voted funds for St. Paul's after the Great Fire of London, and in 1818, after the Napoleonic Wars, for building new churches to stem the feared tide of social unrest. However, with one or two small exceptions—parts of Westminster Abbey, for example—the responsibility for cathedrals, including the financial responsibility, rests squarely on their deans and chapters. My doubt, and it is only a doubt, is whether in future the shoulders of the deans and chapters. broad though they may be and buttressed though they may be by the generosity of the public, are broad enough to sustain this burden in its entirety.

As I see it, there are four main possibilities. We can continue much as at present. There is a lot to be said for this. All too often when we get into difficulties we run to the State for help. Moreover, a successful appeal is a valid source of local pride and does much to bring cathedral and people closer together. I think I should prefer a continuation of the present position, on the one condition that the great sums needed can be raised quickly enough. But I must confess to some doubt whether this is possible, although I have no doubt whatsoever that the appeal of the noble Earl, Lord Scarbrough, will have the success that it must have.

A possible alternative course would be to continue as at present, with the State making perhaps some ad hoc provision, presumably by grant aid, in cases of special need or emergency. This might be acceptable to the Church. I do not know. But I wonder whether it would commend itself to the State. Or we could go the whole French hog and adopt the French solution of State or local ownership in return for State or local aid. For an Established Church there might be a certain rough logic about this solution, and there is the precedent for it over the Border in Scotland. Yet I should have thought that any such solution would be repugnant to many churchmen; it would certainly go against the grain with me. Moreover, if total responsibility for our cathedrals were vested in the State, the total cost of their maintenance would, before long, fall exclusively on the State, and the wells of private charity would quickly dry up.

In any event, my Lords, so radical a solution would seem to me unnecessary. If, under the Historic Buildings Act, grants for the preservation of our domestic architecture can be made with out the private houses concerned passing into public ownership, surely grants could be made to our cathedrals without the fabric of the cathedrals passing into public ownership.

For grants of this nature more systematic provision might need to be made, covering both maintenance and restoration. As a quid pro quo the Church might possibly be asked voluntarily to agree to submit its great cathedrals to the same sort (I do not say the same, but the same sort) of planning disciplines as govern our secular buildings. A possible avenue and filter for such aid might be the Historic Buildings Council, that admirable institution with its corpus of experience and expertise. If so, it would, of course, need a big injection of new funds, for its present funds are clearly inadequate for its present purely secular purposes. Alternatively, we could establish some special machinery, conceivably based on the development of the Cathedrals Advisory Committee. This Committee has now been in existence for almost twenty years, and it has a very responsible and representative membership.

All these possibilities, and many more, are doubtless open to us. I do not know whether we need radically to change the present procedures, or, if so, what would prove to be the best solution. All I suggest, and this I should like to do as vigorously as I possibly can, is that if we do decide at some future date that we need to institute a new system, we should at all costs preserve room for voluntary donations, for private generosity. It would be a great pity if our great cathedrals became entirely dependent on State aid. If State aid is needed I should favour the principle of matching funds, possibly on a 50–50 basis. There is already a precedent for this near at hand, in that successive Governments have undertaken to provide £200,000 every five years for our redundant Anglican churches provided that a comparable contribution is forthcoming from the Church.

My Lords, I have purposely couched these remarks in fairly general and very tentative terms. I do not possess sufficient knowledge to judge the degree to which our churches and our cathedrals are menaced and the extent to which public funds may be needed to ward off this menace. If the danger exists, and I suspect that it may, I cannot help thinking that our senior Church authorities should now be scratching their heads very hard, and I hope in fairly close concert with the State authorities. Eight days ago we read in The Times that the Dean of Winchester had said that the Prime Minister was fully alive to the difficult position of the English and Welsh cathedrals and very sympathetic to them in their plight. The Dean was reported as going on to say that the Prime Minister had recently written that he had been looking into this matter. I do not know whether in fact the Prime Minister has been looking into this matter with sympathy; I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can confirm that he has. I do know, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has himself been looking into this matter with close attention. It is therefore with a special interest that I await his reply.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for putting down this Question and for his understanding. constructive, vivid and perfect speech. I have no doubt that those who bear responsibility for the English cathedrals will read with great interest the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I anticipate that the noble Lord may express his personal interest and sympathy and the concern of the Government, and it is possible that he may say that it is for the Church to initiate action if it wishes to ask for help from the State.

I wish that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Leicester, who is Chairman of the Cathedrals Commission, could be here this afternoon. I think he would want me to express his regret that a previous engagement prevents his attending. I believe that it is his view, and it is certainly my own opinion, that we should appreciate the sympathetic attitude of Her Majesty's Government, and that the Church of England should be willing to enter upon any discussions with the Government to elucidate the position and to see what co-operation was needed.

I do not think that at this stage we should want to commit ourselves to any of the four courses outlined by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I think that we should want discussions, for this is not an easy question and there are many arguments on both sides. We are considering to-day, as the noble Earl has pointed out, the preservation of our cathedrals, and this means of their fabric, not of their furnishing or ornaments. I anticipate that this summer the Church Assembly may appoint a committee to report on the upkeep of all churches, including cathedrals, to inform the Church about the actual cost of repairs and to consider possible sources of money. One important source of money is clearly a contribution by the State. Such a committee would be well placed to consult with the Government. I hope that the Government would be willing to consider both a capital grant, to which the noble Earl was referring—a capital grant so that if there is a sudden emergency, there is money available—and an annual contribution to supplement money raised locally for the cathedral, say on a pound for pound basis, or on a different basis if the cathedral faces exceptionally heavy expenditure. The Church is more actively engaged in raising money for its churches than many people realise. Figures are hard to come by, but it seems probable that not less than £4 million has to be found every year for the maintenance and restoration of parish churches alone.

Two Canadian friends were staying with us last weekend. They were visiting this country after 20 years of absence. They planned their fortnight with meticulous care, and they had given first priority to time for leisurely visits to English cathedrals. They are typical of thousands who come from overseas, and they will find our cathedrals well-cared for and faithfully served. I believe that this is an opportune moment for considering the possibility of a Government grant for the preservation of the fabric of cathedrals. From my talks with some of the deans and their advisers, I believe that the churches would welcome a Government grant, provided the minimum strings were attached to such a grant, and provided that the Cathedral Chapters were fully consulted and their wishes sympathetically considered.

Increasingly our cathedrals are accepted as the mother churches of the Christian community, and we delight to have services to which we can welcome members of the Free Churches. In the last two years we have been thankful in St. Albans to welcome Roman Catholics who have planned pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Alban and who have been happy to say their prayers at this shrine. Our cathedrals are shrines which are more and more valued by our people and our visitors, whether or not they have any religious allegiance. These buildings are powerful witnesses to the Christian faith and to the greatness of our inheritance. We should unite in our efforts to preserve them. For these and other reasons, I greatly look forward to hearing the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet.

6.56 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add a brief word to what my right reverend friend has said. First of all, I should say that I have no axe to grind. Manchester Cathedral will require no Government grant. It is in better condition than it has been for 500 years, and it is unlikely to require any money from the Government. But I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for the well-informed speech he has given on the subject, and for the persuasive way in which he has brought the subject to our notice.

There is increasingly in our cathedrals a willingness—there has always been in Manchester—to place them at the disposal of other Christian denominations, if they so wish it. It is not so long since—and it will soon happen again—that the Presbyterian Church of England celebrated Holy Communion in Manchester Cathedral, the Cathedral being handed over to them for their own rite. That has always seemed to me to be both right and proper.

I feel that were the Government to take this matter up with the Church, there would be a wide support in public opinion for something being effectively done. All I really wanted to do was to thank the noble Earl for the extraordinarily informative and excellent way in which he has brought this matter to your Lordships' notice.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for raising this issue and for giving me the chance of expressing something which has been tribulating the Church of Scotland for a considerable number of years and on which considerable correspondence and interviews have taken place with Her Majesty's Governments, at any rate over the last ten years. It interested me that the noble Earl should have excluded Scotland in his opening remarks, and when he got on to the support of the Churches in Europe I was prepared to interject; but what he said about Glasgow and Dunblane Cathedrals showed me that he had done his homework extremely thoroughly. Few people in England—indeed, few people in Scotland —appreciate that position.

The ancient cathedrals and the abbeys in Scotland, though we manage them without bishops, deans or abbots, and even though they are small and few in number, are very precious to us, from the ancient church at Whithorn, to which St. Ninian came, to the Abbey at Iona, which owes so much of its restoration to the work of my noble friend Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, who has just joined our company in your Lordships' House. I should think that the Abbey needs no support, having had such a protagonist over the last thirty years, but there are other cathedrals in Scotland which require support and are in a fairly parlous state. There is St. Giles's Cathedral in Edinburgh, with its crown, supported, one might say, by the burgh through the centuries, until 1925, when the Act removed the support of the local authorities. It will interest the right reverend Prelates here, at any rate, that in Scotland we have more of the ancient crowns on ecclesiastical buildings. The architect who put the crown on Newcastle put the crown on St. Giles's, and also on King's College, Aberdeen, both of which crowns, one might say, are in good heart.

The tragedy, however, is the crown of the Church of St. Michael, Linlithgow—Linlithgow, where Mary Queen of Scots was born and where the King, her father, died. That church had one of these later crowns, but owing to the fact that the congregation were unable to pay for its maintenance, the crown has fallen. There we see the old Palace maintained by the Ministry of Works, and the Abbey, at its door, unsupported and dependent upon the congregation for its maintenance. Visitors go into Linlithgow Palace, and the congregation have to maintain St. Michael's Kirk in order to accommodate the visitors.

Much the same can be said of our cathedrals at Dunkeld and at Brechin. These are small communities and they are old buildings which require a great deal of money for their upkeep. There is also in Aberdeen the Cathedral of St. Machar, another illustration of how the congregation were unable to maintain it, although the disaster happened about 300 years ago, when the great central tower fell, not as a result of the Reformation, not as a result of Cromwell, but because the congregation had not the money to maintain it. Then there is what is perhaps the most acute case at the present time; that is, the Cathedral of St. Magnus, in Orkney, possibly one of the most interesting cathedrals in the whole world, which was built by the Norwegians. They used to come there; they careened their ships from there, and they sailed out.

I should like to draw the attention of the Government to this interesting point. Some years ago the University of Aberdeen discovered on the Holy Island of St. Ninian, in Shetland, the St. Ninian treasure, which is unique. That treasure has been taken by the central Government, fortunately not to London, but to Edinburgh, and is maintained there. That treasure has been taken, and no support is given to the church there. No compensation has been made; there has been no quid pro quo.

With regard to the Cathedrals of Glasgow and Dunblane, these are the property of the Crown, and, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has rightly said, have been the property of the Crown for centuries. It may be of interest to know that the fact that these are Crown property has not dried up the natural charity for their support. The amount of money that has been spent in providing new windows and doing up the interior of Glasgow Cathedral in the years since the war has been very considerable. The Government have kept the cathedral wind and water tight; and much the same might be said about Dunblane. An interesting modus vivendi has been reached regarding the cost and maintenance. The custodians are paid for their work in the proportions of six-sevenths by the State and one-seventh by the church, the proportion being chosen for obvious reasons.

In Scotland, we have very few of these churches. There are in England nearly 10,000 pre-Reformation churches still in use. In Scotland we have but 62, and we are most anxious that the Historic Buildings Council should be allowed to provide money for the maintenance and establishment of these churches. We in the Church of Scotland have from time to time approached the Government. Our last approach produced, in November, 1965, a letter from the Minister of Public Building and Works, in which he said that he fully recognised the difficulties in Scotland, but that what we suggested—namely, that the Historic Buildings Council should help with these old churches:

would involve a major change of policy which would have to apply to England and Wales, as well. This is exactly what troubles us in Scotland, and what troubles the people in Wales: that as we are subsidiaries of the United Kingdom, nothing can happen to us because of some repercussion in England. The Minister then added: In addition to this there is the related problem of redundant churches throughout Great Britain. The question of redundant historic churches in Scotland simply does not exist, and the Minister was badly briefed in bringing that into his answer. As I have said, we have but 62 of these churches, and not one of them is redundant. They are far too precious to be allowed to become redundant.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He has just described Scotland as a subsidiary of England. He must know perfectly well that we have governed England for the last 200 years.


The noble Lord is entitled to his opinion as to who has governed England and who has governed Scotland. I admit that we have had successive Scotsmen in the Ministry of Works, but the Church of Scotland has had no more change out of the Scotsmen when they were at the Ministry of Works than it had out of English Ministers. I think that, in all fairness, I should say that. I feel that some of the Scotsmen who come down to govern the United Kingdom perhaps (shall we say) lose a little of their national pride.

I think that the question which arises from all this is whether in Scotland we should not have our own Historic Buildings Council to deal with our own peculiar problems.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will excuse me for intervening, Scotland already has its own Historic Buildings Council.


My Lords, I beg your Lordships' pardon. The finances and the policy of it are controlled from London.


By Scotsmen.


That being so, I should like to move on to something slightly different, perhaps to avoid sparring with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, with whom invariably I come off second best. The Local Authorities (Historic Buildings) Act 1962, which enabled local authorities to contribute by grant or loan to the preservation of historic buildings, including churches, did not apply to Scotland. But I welcome the action which the Government are now taking by putting an Amendment into the Civic Amenities Bill, which is before Parliament, saying that the Act will apply to Scotland. We in Scotland are grateful for that.

It has been said that one of the reasons why the Historic Buildings Act is not being applied by the Minister to churches in occupation as such is because of the resentment that it might create with other denominations than those of the Established Churches. This, I submit, no longer holds good; and I question whether it ever held good during the current century. In Scotland we have had Roslyn Chapel, a chapel owned privately but occupied by the Episcopalians, receiving a Government grant, and I have never heard of any resentment by Presbyterians, by members of the Church of Scotland, because this was so. Dunblane, thanks in good measure to the Historic Buildings Council, has established a centre for the Scottish churches in old houses which are surrounding the ancient cathedral—interesting and historic old houses, because they are on the old main road. It was from them that the Duke of Cumberland marched in 1746, and as he passed by he received various articles thrown out of the houses upon him. It is now the centre of the (Ecumenical movement in Scotland. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans spoke of the Roman Catholics being granted the use of St. Alban's Cathedral.


My Lords, I said we were happy to welcome them as pilgrims. It was not quite the same point.


Then it would appear to me that we are advanced a stage further in Scotland. I think that in certain of the Scottish churches this has already happened. It has caused minor ripples, but so far as I am aware no major criticism as yet. There are other churches in which the Episcopalians are welcomed. In some of them they have held their Communion services, and I am assured by the minister of Dunblane Cathedral that that cathedral is at the disposal of any Christian denomination at a time when it is not required for his own parish purposes.

My Lords, I have studied the Report of the Church of England Assembly in 1964 when this matter was raised on a report by the Dean of Gloucester. I found it very difficult to follow the statement of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, who was worried about the possibility of State aid stirring up controversy if it were given, as it would be in the historic churches, to one specific denomination.

I want to come back to this point of the Historic Buildings Council's not being allowed so far to give money for the upkeep of the churches. An undertaking given by a Minister in another place in the year 1953 has ever since then been regarded as binding on his heirs and successors, and seems to be as unalterable as the Laws of the Medes and Persians. In effect, a statement in Hansard has been given the validity of an Act of Parliament. Has a Minister the right to limit in perpetuity an Act of Parliament? If in 1953 Parliament had wished to exclude historic churches from the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act of that year, surely Parliament should have said so. It did not. Therefore, it seems to me to be beyond all reason to assume that historic buildings which are still in use for the purpose for which they were erected should be excluded from the grant. I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether they could not take another look at this particular point, and earn a considerable amount of gratitude from the Church of Scotland and from Scotsmen generally.

7.18 p.m.


My Lords, I want to speak for only one minute. As a member of the Historic Buildings Council—I think, one of the original members —I would say that I cannot remember the English Historic Buildings Council ever having the smallest responsibility for Scotland. Furthermore—and this is my own personal opinion—having looked at the way in which this plan was worked out in the early stages, I think that by and large Scotland came better out of it than England, bearing in mind the very much heavier charges and responsibilities which we have in England. That is not to say that I grudge it; but when one looks at the proportions as they were then worked out, I do not think there was any particular grievance.

This is not to say that the money which the Historic Buildings Council have at their disposal is enough for all their needs in either country. One way and another a great deal of good work has been done. But I think it ought to be made clear that if this particular extra ecclesiastical responsibility were added, they would need to have a much larger grant. The existing grant could not possibly be stretched to cover both. There is a question of principle here; not a question of taking on a little more. But we have a rather good precedent, which I hope the noble Lord who is going to reply may refer to, and that was the device worked out to help the Oxford colleges in their trouble. A special Treasury provision was made for the Oxford colleges. I should think it is worth while to look closely into the details of that special provision to see whether anything could be learnt there from which might be of some help in the particular duty we have to maintain our incomparable cathedrals.

7.20 p.m.


My Lords, we are all united in our gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for raising this matter. This is a timely moment to air it. It has been in the Press; there are the new appeals being launched which are larger than ever, with public discussion of the possible danger from sinking water tables. All this makes it a timely moment for this debate. The noble Lord named his favourite cathedrals, and without saying that they are mine—because I do not think it becomes a member of the Government to have favourite cathedrals—I should like to say how glad I am, as I am sure we all are, that we have three right reverend Prelates with us to-day. We have the Bishop from St. Albans, with its wonderful, long, lolloping nave, and so convenient to Londoners who wish to visit it. We have the Bishop of Manchester, whose Cathedral, although it may not be the largest or grandest of English cathedrals, is certainly shortly to be the cleanest—and this is the most important thing: I wish that the same could he said of all our great mother churches, and not least of that which is closest geographically to your Lordships to-day. Then we have the Bishop of Norwich, whose cathedral is the Queen and Mother of all the fantastic, inventive Gothic churches of East Anglia.

I have one or two detailed points that I should like to bring forward before I come to generalities. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, raised the question of the water table. The Government have of course seen what has been said by the surveyor of York Minster about this problem. I would assure the House that the Government have available to them all the time the studies of water tables in general throughout the country, which are available from the Water Resources Board, and also studies of the effect of falling water tables on buildings in general, which are carried out continuously by the Building Research Station. We do not at the moment know of any specific studies about the effect of falling water tables, or indeed whether water tables are falling in such cases under historic buildings. However, I intend to have such evidence as we have available to us reviewed, and we shall then see whether it is necessary to cause special studies to be undertaken.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, mentioned the letter from the Prime Minister to a Member of Parliament which was quoted by the Dean of Winchester in a recent sermon that attracted much notice. The Prime Minister said in his letter that he was fully alive to the difficult position of the English cathedrals. This indeed is so; and the same is true of those members of the Government whose duty it is to advise him on these matters. He also set forth the fact, which is very much in the minds of us all, that there is no bar to the making of grants towards cathedrals. They have not been made, but there is no statutory reason why they should not be made.

I think all noble Lords would agree with me in echoing good wishes to our colleague, Lord Scarbrough, who is leading the appeal for York Minster—the latest in a Tong series of large appeals, and I believe I am right in saying the largest it has ever been necessary to make for an English cathedral. We wish that appeal a speedy fruition.

The difficulties of cathedrals in the upkeep of their fabric are well known to the Government and to all those interested. These difficulties have been slightly alleviated recently by action taken by the Church authorities themselves. The maintenance and repair of the cathedral fabric is the responsibility of the chapter, and has to be met out of the chapter's revenues. These revenues also have to pay for the cathedral staff and for the services in the cathedrals, so there is a great deal of competition for the money available. It is not always appreciated that the Church Commissioners have no power at all to provide money for the repair or maintenance of cathedral fabrics. What power they possess they gained in 1963: the Church gave them the power to pay out for emergency repairs any capital which they hold as endowments for a cathedral, provided that the money is repaid within five years. It is not much of an alleviation, but it is something. They also obtained powers in 1963 to make grants for the stipends of the dean or provost, and up to two canons for any one cathedral, and for the repair of property other than the cathedral church itself. The effect of this is to release the cathedral funds for the repair of the fabric itself.

The present situation regarding the repair and alterations of cathedrals and related matters, which has attracted attention recently, is as follows. The existence of the Cathedrals Advisory Committee has already been mentioned in this debate. The deans and provosts of English cathedrals, at any rate, and I believe I am right in saying of others also, meet periodically, and there has recently been some discussion, both among the deans and within the Cathedrals Advisory Committee, of relationships between the Cathedrals Advisory Committee on the one hand and deans and chapters on the other hand. It would be true to say that neither side has been entirely content with the present procedure. The Cathedrals Advisory Committee in particular have considerable doubts about the terms on which they may be called in by a dean and chapter to advise, and the way in which their advice must be handled after it is received. I have recently had conversations with both sides—that is, with the Cathedrals Advisory Committee, which called on me, and with representatives of the Deans' Conference—and I have every hope that the slight difficulties—they are only slight—which have existed will very shortly be ironed out directly between these two responsible bodies.

The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, spoke to us of Scotland, and here indeed we have an atypical situation. He told us how Glasgow and Dunblane Cathedrals are the responsibility of the Crown and are under the guardianship of my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works—a most unusual arrangement. He did not mention the fact that Kirkwall Cathedral has an even more unusual arrangement. It used to be under the guardianship of the Minister. I understand it is now the property of the local authority, and, if I am correct, that would make it unique in the British Isles. I would just confirm what the noble Lord, Lord Molson, interjected: that there is a Scottish Historic Buildings Council which advises the Secretary of State for Scotland on the expenditure of Exchequer money for the upkeep of historic buildings, in much the same way as the English Council advises my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in England. Therefore the Ministry of Public Building and Works is responsible only for those churches which may or may not be taken into State possession. If it is simply a question of giving State money to a church which remains in church hands in Scotland, then that, I should hope, would be administered according to Scottish values by Scottish persons in Edinburgh, and I will ensure that what the noble Lord said about it is drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I should like to draw to the attention of noble Lords who are interested a most valuable Report forming part of the considerations that are at present under way within the Church of England. It is called The Report of the Redundant Churches Fund Committee [reference Church Assembly 1619] which was published earlier this year, and in Appendix V of that document there is a valuable round-up of procedures in other European countries in this matter of State aid to churches and cathedrals. I will quote from this document. I have not caused it to be checked by the State machine, but I think the Church machine is fairly good. It says that in France (and I heard this myself on a visit to France earlier in the year) all cathedrals belong to the State, all parish churches belong to the commune—that is, to the local authority—with the exception of those built after 1905. Therefore in France cathedrals and churches are directly under State ownership and the State is responsible for their upkeep.

The same situation prevails in Italy, and this is much less well known. Cathedrals and major churches are under State ownership and the State is responsible for their upkeep. I confess that even more surprising to me was the fact that the same situation prevails in Portugal. In Switzerland, churches and cathedrals, though not I think in public ownership, are subject to ordinary planning control under cantonal law. In Holland, cathedrals are subject to State planning control and receive State grants. In Austria they are subject to State planning control and receive State grants.

To give a general idea of the situation, I should like to put this in proportion by taking the House back to 1913 when the first of the series of Acts that form the corpus of our present legislation on preservation of historic buildings was passed. In those days the question arose whether churches in use as churches, and, a fortiori, cathedrals, should be treated in the same way as other historic buildings. After due debate in both Houses Archbishop Davidson made a famous speech in this House in which he argued against a move which was afoot to have cathedrals and churches treated in the same way as other historic buildings, and said, in effect, that the Church would look after them itself. Ever since then this arrangement has been adhered to by successive Governments and successive Church Assemblies; and that is the situation we are still in to-day.

As a result of this severance from the machine of State control and State aid, which go hand in hand, the Church has always considered itself as cut off from State financial aid. Even though the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953, which is the main legislation in the field now, would permit the Minister of Housing to make grants for the repair of churches or cathedrals, provided that they were of outstanding interest, it has been made clear by successive Government spokesmen (and the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, referred to this) that the slender resources available for historic buildings as a whole would not, at any rate for the moment, be used for ecclesiastical buildings in use as such, though of course they could be used if the church was no longer a church. To this there is one exception. A State grant of £20,000 was offered for a new pavement in Westminster Abbey, but opinions differed about the merits of the scheme; no agreement was reached, the new pavement was not installed and the grant was never paid. But in that one case the principle was breached. And Historic Building Council grants have been paid for buildings which, though not cathedrals, are close to being cathedrals, the prime example of this being the cloister at Wells.

How do we stand at the moment? I think the first thing I should say is that the Government are following with the closest and most sympathetic interest the deliberations within the Church of England about this matter. We can only welcome the setting up of the new committee, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans referred, which is to review the entire question of support for churches in use, including cathedrals. I do not want to commit this Government or any other, and I do not want to look too far ahead either, but at the moment I can see the difficulty which would face any Government that was asked to provide State funds for the maintenance of cathedrals without, at the same time, the cathedrals being subjected to the full effect of the Town and Country Planning Acts. The reason I say this is that in all other cases, in all other types of building, the Historic Buildings Council grant goes hand in hand with the application especially of Section 33 of the current Town and Country Planning Act. That is the section relating to building preservation orders and providing for notice of intention to be given to change a building of outstanding historical and architectural merit, and the other familiar provisions.

This is where I would wind up, my Lords. It is not, I think, for the Government to take any initiative in this field. No approach has been made to the State since 1913. If ever such an approach is made, the Government, assuming it is the present Government, and also, I imagine, any future Government, would receive it with an entirely open mind.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.