The General Synod at its February meeting made it clear how important it feels the listed places of worship scheme is. The scheme has managed to rebate some £12 million back to listed churches each year, and that is particularly important when a system has not yet been found for the European Union to remove VAT on repairs to listed places of worship.
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment and pay tribute to his predecessor? Will my hon. Friend look at removing the anomaly between the high rate of VAT on church repairs and the zero rate of VAT on new buildings? Will he, indeed, campaign for a lower rate of VAT throughout the European Union—[Interruption.]
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, I must say that there is still quite a hubbub from Government Back Benchers, and it is being contributed to by members of the Government. Surely they want to hear the answers from the Second Church Estates Commissioner.
I remind any colleagues interrupting that it was Gladstone who observed that the most important business of the House was Prayers at the start of the day.
My hon. Friend has been an assiduous campaigner in supporting repairs for church buildings, and the simple fact is that each year the Church of England spends £110 million on repairing and renovating listed churches. The vast majority of that money comes from church congregations and local communities, and, even in these straitened times, we have to come to a collective view on whether we are going to maintain that very important part of our national fabric and heritage.