HC Deb 23 October 2000 vol 355 cc3-4W
Mr. Baker

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, how many bishops there were in(a) 1970, (b) 1980, (c) 1990 and (d) 2000; what the average cost was of supporting a bishop in each of those years at 2000 prices; and what the ratio was of bishops to the average Sunday congregation in each year. [129656]

Mr. Stuart Bell

The numbers of full-time Diocesan, Suffragan and Assistant Bishops paid by the Church Commissioners in those and other recent years are as follows:

  • 1970: 107
  • 1980: 108
  • 1990: 110
  • 1998: 113
  • 1999: 113
  • 2000: 113.

The 1980 and subsequent figures include the two bishops in the Diocese in Europe, following the foundation of that diocese in that year. The 2000 figures include the three Provincial Episcopal Visitors, whose sees were created in the 1990s under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, following the decision to ordain women to the priesthood.

The Commissioners do not compile averages of expenditure on bishops because of a number of distorting factors, such as expenditure incurred on discharging national episcopal responsibilities, which would prevent like being compared with like. The total costs of the Church Commissioners' expenditure on bishops in the years in question, adjusted to 2000 prices by reference to the national average earnings index (earnings being the inflation index most appropriate for comparison) are set out. This total cost includes:

  1. 1. bishops' stipends (and pension contributions from 1998),
  2. 2. costs of running and staffing bishops' offices,
  3. 3. costs of maintaining See Houses which provide domestic accommodation for the bishop and his family as well as staff offices.

£ million
Year to 31 March 1970 19.6
Year to 31 December 1980 11.9
Year to 31 December 1990 14.5
Year to 31 December 1999 15.3

The substantially lower figure in 1980 largely reflects the significant relative deterioration in all clergy stipends in the 1970s.

Usual Sunday attendance figures for the equivalent years are as follows, 1998 being the latest year for which statistics are currently available:

  • 1970: 1,542,000
  • 1980: 1,240,000
  • 1990: 1,143,000
  • 1998: 977,900.

These figures should however be treated with caution. The system for measuring attendance has been and continues to be under periodic review. Consequently the figures quoted are not on a like-for-like basis. Nor do they include attendance in the Diocese in Europe.

The methodology now under discussion also recognises that a true picture of church attendance needs to take account of midweek and occasional services as well as those on Sunday. For these reasons, calculating a ratio in the manner suggested could be misleading.