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Volume 456: debated on Monday 29 January 2007

22. What advice is given by the commissioners to cathedral chapters on programmes to encourage non-worshippers to use cathedral spaces. (111474)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, such programmes are arranged locally, but the commissioners are aware that there are all kinds of initiatives to encourage as many people as possible to visit our cathedrals and appreciate their special significance.

My hon. Friend has been, at my invitation, to the Lichfield festival of the arts, which is held mainly in Lichfield cathedral. I know that he has also been to a number of other non-worshipping events in the cathedral. He says, rightly, that it is up to local communities to decide what they can do, but can there not be a sharing of knowledge between cathedrals and churches about what they do? Are not the Church Commissioners the ideal fountain to pool such information and disseminate it to all bodies?

I am grateful for that excellent suggestion. I agree that there ought to be a body to co-ordinate the work of the cathedral chapters, provide a benchmark and pass on information.

As the hon. Gentleman said, I have visited Lichfield. I know that it has many visitors, and that some may participate in worship and some may not. The fact that people visit at all is greatly encouraging, and if they do worship in the Christian faith, so much the better.