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Volume 885: debated on Thursday 30 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on Government aid for historic churches in use.

Historic buildings grants are not at present made to buildings in ecclesiastical use, which are exempt from control over the demolition of listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments. A Working Party of the General Synod of the Church of England has pursued with the Government, and through the Churches Main Committee with the other denominations, the possibility of such grants being made available for historic churches in use; and has, in consultation with my Department, carried out studies of the estimated costs of repair and the resources available to meet them in sample areas.After considering these studies and other representations from the General Synod, the Government have accepted in principle the case for some measure of State aid for historic churches and other ecclesiastical buildings in use, subject to agreement being reached on the amount of aid, conditions, methods and other relevant matters, and also having regard to the implications for public expenditure. On the basis of the studies, the aid involved, which would not extend to cathedrals, is not expected to exceed £1 million per annum at 1973 prices.My right hon. Friend, in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, will be inviting the General Synod and, through the Churches Main Committee, the other denominations, to discuss the matters to be agreed with representatives of my Department.