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Pope's Visit (Costs)

Volume 523: debated on Wednesday 16 February 2011

I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is today publishing a report of the non-policing costs handled by the FCO on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government and the Catholic Church during the Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom which took place from 16 to 19 September 2010.

This was an historic visit, as the first ever official visit by a Pope to the UK, and an important milestone in the relationship between the UK and the Holy See. It was on a far bigger scale than a normal state visit: police estimates suggest that 500,000 people saw the Pope either during events or along the Pope mobile routes. Approximately 3,000 media representatives were accredited to cover the visit. The combination of official events, pastoral events, through which the Pope engaged with Britain’s Roman Catholics, and meetings with the Church of England and with people of other faiths, made this a visit that was out of the ordinary in every way.

The visit programme included both state and pastoral elements. HM Government agreed with the Catholic Church that costs would be shared accordingly, with all the costs of the pastoral elements of the programme met by the church. HM Government met the costs of events which were entirely part of the state visit programme and contributed to the costs of other events in relation to measures necessary to meet HM Government’s responsibility for the safety and security of the public and of the Pope. The Scottish Government also contributed in relation to these measures for the Scottish part of the programme.

The report consists of:

An exchange of letters and an agreement on division of costs for public events signed by Lord Patten of Barnes and Archbishop Nichols prior to the visit. The second appendix is not attached as it is a draft budget which is superseded by the summary of expenditure attached to this statement (referenced below)

A summary of expenditure made by the FCO on behalf of HM Government and the Catholic Church. To date, all these costs have been met by the FCO. The bishops’ conferences of England and Wales and Scotland on behalf of the Catholic Church have undertaken to refund its share of these costs by the end of February.

This report does not include the estimated £3,800,000 for costs paid direct by the Catholic Church. Neither does it cover any expenditure met by local authorities nor staffing costs incurred by other Government Departments.

In addition to the costs outlined in the report the Scottish Government also contributed towards the cost of the Scottish part of the programme.

I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk).

The visit paved the way for further co-operation between the UK and the Holy See on a number of international issues where we share a common goal, including addressing the challenge of climate change, promoting multi-faith dialogue, as a means of working for peace in the world, and fighting poverty and disease. These were among the issues discussed both in bilateral meetings during the visit and at the working dinner with the papal delegation hosted by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

The success of the visit was a testament to the close co-operation and effective joint working by the Catholic Church, HM Government and many other organisations and individuals throughout the UK. I wish to place on record HM Government’s gratitude to all those who worked together to achieve that success.