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Church Commissioners

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 27 July 2010

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

Women Bishops

As one who did go into the Church ministry and then discovered that I had plenty of vices, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to be a little more impatient about the issue of women bishops? To be honest, it felt as if he was saying, “Nearer and nearer draws the time”, but will it be the time that will surely come when we have women bishops, and why on earth does this legislation have to come back to this House? Surely the Church of England should be freed from the shackles of bringing its legislation here, so that we can move forward on this issue rather faster.

If the hon. Gentleman reads what I said to the General Synod, he will see that I made it clear that many of us want this legislation to come forward as speedily as possible, but we have to get it right. The reason it comes back here is that we have an established Church, and until such time as Parliament decides that we do not, we will continue to have an established Church.

I hope my hon. Friend will ask the Synod to recognise that the House welcomed the decision it took to trust women bishops to do the right things, rather than trying to force them into being second-class bishops.

I thank my hon. Friend for that. I made it clear in York at the General Synod that I did not think I could get through this House any legislation in which there was a scintilla of a suggestion of women bishops in any way being second-class bishops.

Cathedral Restoration

9. What recent representations the Church Commissioners have made to the Government on public funding for the repair and restoration of cathedrals. (11100)

Church groups of all denominations are seeking to encourage and persuade the Government to continue the listed places of worship grant scheme, which enables a 100% refund of VAT on church buildings and repairs.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Yorkshire Forward, the Yorkshire regional development agency, was forced to withdraw a grant of £1 million toward the cost of restoring the great east window of York minster? Will the Church Commissioners make representations to the Government that funds withdrawn from RDAs should be made available to other regional or local bodies, and that funding applications to these bodies from cathedrals should still be supported?

I understand the point the hon. Gentleman makes. It is estimated that some £9 million is required to put York cathedral into good repair. Although funding has been coming forward—I understand that there is a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Wolfson Foundation has set up a fund for cathedral repairs—we will need to find money from all sorts of sources if we as a nation are to meet the responsibility of repairing these fantastic cathedrals, which are part of our national heritage.

Can my hon. Friend explain why two of the cathedrals in Scotland—Glasgow and Dunblane—are fully funded by the public purse, yet not a single cathedral in England is so funded?

The situation in Scotland is simply different from that here. As I said, we need to raise considerable sums of money—for Salisbury, Winchester and Lincoln cathedrals, and for York minster—but that will require a number of different sources of funding: part from the state, part from trusts and charities and part from private individuals.