The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
The information is not held centrally.
It is a shame that the figure is not available, because we should know how many interregnums last for a substantial period during which many churchwardens and ordinary clergy are happy to take up the slack in parishes around the country. Will my hon. Friend pay tribute to the many clergy and churchwardens who are not only doing a fabulous job in their own parish but covering for others when there are prolonged periods without clergy in other parishes nearby?
Of course, we pay respect and homage to all those within the Church who do their job and do their duty, certainly as regards the case that my hon. Friend mentions. I would point out to him that churches often find that a period of interregnum results in the congregation becoming more vibrant as greater numbers of parishioners participate. However, his point is well taken.
Equality Act Regulations
That is of course a matter for the House authorities, not for me. I would, however, say that the regulations contain a set of exceptions for religious organisations, broadly equivalent to those in the Equality Act 2006, and it is for individual parishes to decide whether to take advantage of those exceptions.