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Church Commissioners

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

English Heritage (Church Repairs)

6. What discussions the Church Commissioners have had with English Heritage on grant funding for church repairs in 2010-11. (321511)

Church officials meet regularly with English Heritage, which, together with the Heritage Lottery Fund, offers grants for urgent repairs to listed places of worship. The scheme continues to be oversubscribed and is due to end in March 2011, so we expect to have discussions with English Heritage this year about its continuation.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, but it is extremely alarming that from the end of March next year there is no guarantee of funds being available. Will he also confirm that the amount of funding has been severely reduced in recent years, meaning that fewer churches are eligible for it?

The Church itself has spent £110 million on current repairs, due in no small measure to the listed places of worship grant scheme, which saw VAT reduced to 5 per cent. The Church can be grateful that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, now the Prime Minister, pushed that through. We are looking to continue discussions with the European Commission and others to ensure that it is continued. As to the fact that grant money has been reduced, that is regrettably the case.

Dean of Derby

7. How many applications the diocese of Derby has received for the vacant post of dean of Derby. (321512)

The panel tasked with appointing the new dean of Derby was pleased to receive a very healthy number of inquiries and many good-quality applications following its advertisement. Some 30 applications were considered at the long-listing stage.

Given that the Church of England ordains about 400 priests a year, of whom half are women, was the hon. Gentleman as surprised as I was that not one of the applicants was a woman priest? Does he think that reflects badly on the recruitment process, and that there is some perceived institutional barrier to women making progress in the Church of England?

I might in the narrow context of female deans, but the hon. Gentleman will know that the number of women archdeacons is steadily increasing. There are currently 15 of them—14 per cent. of the posts filled. We have two excellent female deans, at the hon. Gentleman’s own cathedral in Salisbury and at Leicester cathedral. I agree with him, however, that we ought to do more and that there ought not to be a glass ceiling.

Minster Status

8. Whether the Church Commissioners allocate funding to the Church of England for the purpose of assisting the consideration of applications for minster status. (321513)

Minster status in and of itself has no legal meaning, so the Church Commissioners do not allocate funds for it. That is an example of God moving in mysterious ways.

Would it be possible, when God oversees this process, to put aside the issues of mammon? The business community in Croydon is pushing the idea of minster status, but is it more a matter for the religious ministry of the Church and its Christian care and compassion within the diocese?

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman, who wants a minster in Croydon. Coming from the north-east, I have one in York, another in Beverley and one in Sunderland. I would be happy to speak to the bishop on the issue, and the hon. Gentleman might also wish to drop him a line.