HC Deb 18 December 1995 vol 268 cc858-9W
Mr. Frank Field

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, how the implementation of the Wilding proposals will be affected by the reform proposed in the Turnbull Commission. [5648]

Mr. Alison

The proposals of the Wilding report of 1990 on the care of redundant churches, which included giving the commissioners a more pivotal role, have now been largely implemented. The Turnbull Commission proposals include the transfer of the commissioners' functions in this field to a National Council for the Church of England. The commissioners and their partners in this work are anxious that such a change should not diminish the continued successful implementation of the Wilding proposals which have assisted the preservation of and the finding of suitable alternative uses for important listed churches.

There are a number of aspects of the Turnbull Commission proposals which require sufficient time for detailed consideration and successful resolution. These include:

  1. (1) Arrangements for providing the Church's share (30 per cent.) of the cost of running the Churches Conservation Trust. At present these are a charge on the commissioners' investment income and a comparable degree of security needs to attach to any new arrangements.
  2. (2) Proposals for a Church Heritage Board to act in a co-ordinating role. The Church/state position of some of the bodies proposed to be co-ordinated needs to be fully considered.
  3. (3) Accountability of Parliament. It is not yet clear whether the Second Church Estates Commissioner would still be able to answer questions on redundant churches in this House.
  4. (4) A proposed strategic approach to church redundancies. If this were to precipitate a considerably greater number of church closures and more frequent non-statutory inquiries the present financial and administrative arrangements between the Church and state could come under greater strain.
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