To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he proposes to publish the report on the care of redundant churches carried out by Mr. Richard Wilding.
Mr. Wilding's report, which was presented to Ministers and to the Church Commissioners at the end of March, is being published today, by HMSO. I am arranging for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report gives a valuable overview of the operation of the redundant churches fund and the context in which its work is carried out. In general, the report concludes that the present system for handling and financing the preservation of Church of England churches works well. But it identifies a number of ways in which the present arrangements could be improved, and makes a number of recommendations relating to this and to the handling of redundant churches and chapels of other denominations.The recommendations also relate to the respective responsibilities of the Department of the Environment and the Church Commissioners in respect of the fund. A number of them, if implemented, would require amendment either of the Pastoral Measure 1983 or of the Redundant Churches and Other Religious Buildings Act 1969. My right hon. Friend welcomes the general thrust of the report. He will be considering all the recommendations most carefully in consultation with the Church Commissioners and there will be discussions with the fund and the advisory board for redundant churches before any conclusions are reached. During this process, they will also take into account any views which other bodies or individuals may wish to make: such comments should be sent to the Department at room C11/02,2 Marsham street, London SW1P 3EB or to the Church Commissioners at 1 Millbank, London SW1P 3JZ, by 31 August.I hope that with the aid of this useful and readable report we shall be able to improve still further on the systems for ensuring that the best of our heritage of historic churches which are no longer needed for pastoral use are preserved in the mutual interests of the Church and the nation.