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Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

4. If he will discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the merits of extending the listed places of worship grant scheme beyond 2011. (18946)

I am sure that my hon. Friend will remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his comprehensive spending review statement last week that the listed places of worship grant scheme is to continue. I am delighted, as I am sure all hon. Members are, that that is the case. We have had to make some small reductions, and it will now go back to its pre-2006 status, but other than that, it will continue. I hope that my hon. Friend and others will join me in praising that decision.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on doing his bit to save the scheme, which many of my constituents were worried was going to be cut altogether. Will he expand on what “pre-2006” actually means for those churches applying for funds?

I would be delighted to. Basically, it means that local community groups raising money to repair the fabric of their church will continue effectively to be able to claim grants equivalent to the value of the VAT on the works that are done. The only difference will be that some categories of work—primarily, professional fees, bells, organs and the like—will be excluded in the way they were before 2006, but everything else will continue to be claimable.

May I thank the Minister for safeguarding this scheme, but does he regard his success on this front as the only success his Department has had in its negotiations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

No, I do not. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Department’s overall settlement, he will see that we did pretty well compared with many. As mentioned twice already, the increase in funding from the lottery will help to allay the effects of some cuts, so this means that, overall, we hope to have managed to focus the cuts away from the front line and protect as much as possible the nation’s culture and heritage.