Over the past three years, the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded just under £75 million to 623 projects to repair listed places of worship in England through the grants for places of worship programme and its predecessor, the repairs grants for places of worship programme, which is operated in partnership with English Heritage.
I am grateful for that reply. It is, indeed, a large sum of money. Will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to review the level at which VAT is set on church repairs and make a plea to reduce it to 5%, which would be perfectly legal?
I remind my hon. Friend that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been incredibly generous towards the Church. In May 2012, he and the Government agreed to give £30 million extra a year to the Church so that the listed places of worship grant scheme could enable the equivalent to the VAT bill to be paid on all alterations and repairs to listed buildings. No church should be deterred from undertaking essential repairs and restoration due to fears about the cost of VAT, because they are now covered. The Chancellor made it very clear that he was moving to ease the impact on the churches, in recognition of the massive contribution made by congregations up and down the land to the life of their communities.
The right hon. Gentleman will know that no one begrudges lottery money flowing to protect our great churches, but is he aware that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday heartily endorsed crowdfunding as a way for communities to raise money to do good things? Could we interest the Archbishop of Canterbury in crowdfunding so that we can take the pressure off the lottery and use more of its money for other things?