HL Deb 17 February 1997 vol 578 cc447-9

Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Millennium Commission is considering funding the building of new cathedrals and churches.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood)

My Lords, the Millennium Commission is not considering any proposals for new cathedrals or churches. It is, however, considering a number of bids submitted by churches and Christian organisations, including applications for the completion of St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and the adaptation of more than 350 rural churches to provide community facilities.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reasonably satisfactory reply. Is he aware that the Moslems are building 100 mosques to mark the millennium and yet it is not a Moslem millennium but is a Christian millennium? Should we not abandon that dome which is being built at Greenwich and build instead a large and lasting religious monument to see us through to the next millennium?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, of course, the millennium begins as a Christian festival. The Moslems' programme of mosque building does not involve any Millennium Commission money. I do not believe that there is any incompatibility with the proposals for the millennium Exhibition and the origins of the millennium itself.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, will the noble Lord explain to the House how one justifies building more churches for smaller congregations?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, that is obviously a matter primarily for the Church and not the Government. If the Church has the appropriate amount of money and wishes to spend it in that way, then that is a matter for the Church.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is great appreciation within the Church for the very considerable number of cathedral and church projects which have been included by the Millennium Commission in its recently published long list of applications? Can the Minister say anything about the possibility of church projects which have failed to be included on that list at present being allowed to re-present modified or remodelled proposals for the future?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, there are three rounds for the so-called millennium projects. The third round closed relatively recently. It is unlikely but possible that there might be a fourth round and, were that to occur, it would be possible for projects, including any projects connected with the Church, to be resubmitted.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that four of the Welsh cathedrals date from the last millennium and therefore do need a little repair? Will he give me an assurance that that will be taken into consideration?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the national heritage side of the lottery deals with repairs to churches or other buildings. I am sure that if a properly worked out proposal in connection with a church or a cathedral is submitted to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, as a lottery distributor, it and English Heritage will treat it very favourably.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I only hope the Bishops will agree with lotteries as a possible source.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, that is a matter for the Bishops.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, following on from what the right reverend Prelate asked, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether there is any possibility for churches and cathedrals which have failed in their applications to re-present them? For example, in my own area in Blackburn, the cathedral, along with the partnership of industry and commerce, put forward proposals. Is there any prospect of success were those proposals to be resubmitted?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as I explained to the right reverend Prelate, my understanding is that the third round of projects has closed but, if anyone has another project, it is worth bearing in mind that there may be a fourth round. It is still not clear whether there will be. But that is the point at which resubmissions should be made.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, how many cathedrals and churches in England were built for the last millennium and are still standing?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am afraid that I am not in a position to answer that question. It was a long time ago.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I was interested to hear what my noble friend said about community centres. Am I right to understand that the Millennium Commission would welcome applications from projects for the construction of buildings which would serve both as a worshipping community for Christians and also as a community centre for the local population?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the projects to which my noble friend has referred may well commend themselves to the commission. There are two key criteria for millennium support: first, the project must enjoy public support generally; and secondly, it must make a substantial contribution to the life of the community which it is designed to serve.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, are the Government aware that an enormous majority of the churches built at about the time of the last millennium were in fact built after it to express gratitude for having survived?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his helpful contribution.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, does the Minister agree that what future generations would like to emerge from those vast amounts of money which are being spent are buildings of great beauty and architectural quality? The commission is producing the landmark projects, which are excellent. But does he not agree that in particular in this country we should welcome a great lyric arts centre of great architectural beauty? Will he pass on to his colleagues who chair and run the commission the thought that that would be well worthy of support?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. One of the other criteria, upon which I did not enumerate, by which the Millennium Commission judges possible projects is that they should be of high architectural design and represent good environmental policy. If one looks at the schemes that are coming forward, it will be seen that that is a characteristic of the projects. Perhaps I may single out one of them. Perhaps the most striking of all is the proposed performing arts centre in Bristol, which is a most extraordinary and exciting design.

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