The number of ordinations to stipendiary ministry has remained broadly stable over the past 20 years. In 2012, 11,375 ordained clergy and at least 1,411 chaplains were serving in the Church of England, and there were 12,953 parishes. As a result, it is not unusual for a parish priest to have the care of souls for more than one parish.
The pay of clergy and how clergy are organised is a matter for the diocese and the local bishop. The hon. Lady has kindly written to me about this issue, which is causing her concern. I will, if I may, take it up with the Bishop of Lichfield and come back to her.
Local churches are at the heart of rural life. We have parish priests who are asked to look after sometimes four, five or six parish churches. Can we keep that situation under review? We want to keep the parish churches open, but it is more than humanly possible for one person to nurse so many parish churches.
Those are all challenges that we face. How we maintain and keep churches open in rural areas and ensure good ministry for new housing estates in urban areas are the responsibilities of diocesan bishops. We are fortunate in having some excellent new stipendiary clergy coming forward and a large number of self-supporting ministers who support the work of the Church of England. The point that my hon. Friend makes is a good one. Essentially, the Church of England has to be a national church, serving all parts of the country, and we are determined that it should continue to do that.