HL Deb 08 March 1989 vol 504 cc1475-6

2.43 p.m.

Lord Gladwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider making a grant towards the cleaning and restoration of the exterior of the Henry VII Chapel of Westminster Abbey.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, we have considered this and the answer is, no.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which was not unexpected. However, surely the Government are aware that the funds available to the Westminster Abbey Restoration Fund must now all be devoted to the reconditioning of the towers and the east side of the Abbey, and that no money will be available for the cleaning of the Henry VII Chapel until 1993, if then? As the apparent maintenance of the chapel in its present filthy state is something in the nature of a national disgrace, could not the Government, exceptionally, co-operate with the Abbey on ways and means of remedying this situation? Perhaps something in the nature of a loan might be considered. This would not necessarily involve any serious strain on our national resources.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's concern, but government funding for the maintenance of historic buildings is channelled through English Heritage whose policy is to exclude cathedrals and equivalent churches from its general programme of church repair grants. That is in line with the Church of England's own view that parish churches should get priority over cathedrals, which are better placed to raise substantial sums from the public and other private sources.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, in view of the fact that Henry VII was really an Anglesey Welshman, will the Minister make inquiries to see whether Welsh Heritage can help?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I shall certainly take up the noble Lord's point, but of course it was a Labour government which in 1977 came to this agreement with the Church of England.