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Historic Churches

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 5 February 2009

4. What recent discussions the Church Commissioners have had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on funding for the preservation of historic churches. (254301)

Church of England officials have been meeting officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and other Government Departments. Those discussions seek, among other things, to identify national, regional and local sources of funds and ensure that the provision of community services in church buildings qualifies for these sources of funding on an equal basis as in respect of non-church buildings.

I understand that the heritage grant is to be reduced this year, and that the funding of churches and church repairs is reaching crisis point. There has been a spate of thefts of lead from roofs, and churches must pay VAT on repairs. They have thousands of pounds’ worth of commitments and very little by way of grant. What can the hon. Gentleman do, as a matter of urgency, to ensure that the largest possible heritage grant is available for the restoration of churches?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising a matter that is extremely important to the Church. We continue to monitor the heritage fund grant because we are constantly hearing that it may be reduced.

The hon. Lady is, of course, aware of our own efforts and campaigning to ensure that VAT on church repairs is effectively reduced to 5 per cent. She is right to say that we need to inject value into our church repairs. At least £925 million will be needed over the next five years to repair listed places of worship in England, most of which will be raised by congregations and local communities. The hon. Lady’s efforts, and the efforts of the House, to maintain pressure on the Government are most welcome.