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Fires and Fire Safety

Volume 504: debated on Thursday 21 January 2010

5. How much the Church of England spent on (a) repairs necessary after fires and (b) fire safety measures in churches in the last five years. (312130)

I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker. This is a matter for individual churches and cathedrals, and the figures are not held centrally. I know, however, that many churches and cathedrals have undertaken work on fire prevention, detection and containment.

After Christmas there was a fire in York minster’s stone yard, where the cathedral’s greatest window is being stored while it undergoes a £25 million restoration. The window was saved by firemen and minster staff, who carried it to safety. It is a work of art as important as the Sistine chapel ceiling. Will my hon. Friend ask the Church Commissioners to press the Government to protect such works of art from fire and other risks, just as they protect works of art in our national galleries and museums?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. Fortunately no people were harmed in the fire, and the panels of the incomparable great east window were saved. The Church welcomes the recommendation by the Public Accounts Committee that cathedrals should receive direct funding from the Government.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that for specialised properties, bodies such as the National Farmers Union have created their own insurance companies. Have the Church Commissioners given any thought, given the nature of churches, to the idea that there should perhaps be a central insurance company to insure more effectively against the risk of fire?

I am grateful for the opportunity to reassure the hon. Gentleman. I can tell him that advice on managing the risk of fire is available from Church House, from dioceses and from the Ecclesiastical insurance group, which insures most Church of England churches.