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Lottery Grants

Volume 481: debated on Thursday 23 October 2008

4. If the Church Commissioners will provide guidance to churches and cathedrals on applications for lottery grants for the upkeep of church buildings and the provision of visitor facilities. (229207)

I advise the hon. Gentleman that the Church already provides such advice via its “Church Care” and “Parish Resources” websites. In addition, the lottery providers give specific advice on their own schemes via their websites. I applaud the cathedrals that do so much to welcome tourists. They see that work as part of their ministry, and we should recognise the boost that they give to the wider economy through tourist income. Cathedrals such as Lichfield’s are a major draw.

May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the commissioners need to be a little more proactive than he describes? Lichfield cathedral recently applied for many millions of pounds for the Inspire project to improve the fabric and visitor facilities, but it was refused. Such applications to the Heritage Lottery Fund cost thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of pounds. Do not the commissioners need to give much better advice on what sort of lottery applications are likely to be successful?

I am aware that Lichfield cathedral applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding for a scheme to improve visitor and interpretation facilities. I congratulate the cathedral and the hon. Gentleman on their sterling efforts to engage with visitors. My colleagues at Church house supported the cathedral’s application, but unfortunately the Heritage Lottery Fund could not fund all the applications that were before it; it held a ballot in which Lichfield cathedral was unsuccessful. I hope that the cathedral will find an alternative funding source, but I will take his comments back to the Church Commissioners.

As one who was associated with the appeal for our diocesan cathedral in Lichfield, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to examine this with a little more care and in greater detail? The diversion of lottery resources to the Olympics has caused enormous distortion and created a very great problem for all our cathedrals. It is shameful to think that there has to be the sort of ballot to which he refers. Will he do his best to influence the powers that be?

I raised that question with the Heritage Lottery Fund after the subject was brought up on the Floor of the House, and it told me that lottery funding for the Church would not be affected by the Olympic games. We should welcome the help that the Heritage Lottery Fund gives us with the challenge of keeping cathedrals and churches in a good state of repair. We all acknowledge the need for continuing Government support and the constant pressure that this House exerts through questions such as those put by the hon. Gentlemen, which are always welcome.