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Volume 607: debated on Thursday 17 March 2016

9. What support the Church Commissioners provide to cathedrals to contribute to the cultural and economic life of the UK. (904178)

Cathedrals play a significant part in the local economy. Attendance is increasing, and their contribution to the economy has increased by 27%. No doubt that was partly responsible for inspiring the Chancellor’s generous doubling of the £20 million that was originally provided for the cathedral repair bill as part of the centenary world war one fund.

Durham cathedral, which is in my area, is a particularly fine example. Let me also give a plug for that great working-class gathering, the Durham miners’ gala, which will take place on Saturday 9 July. Could any of that £20 million be used to renovate some of the churches and church assets in other mining communities? St Mary the Virgin church in Seaham, for example, is one of only 20 Viking churches in the country.

I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman about the magnificence of Durham cathedral. In fact, it is about to launch an Open Treasure project that is designed to produce a sustainable future for the cathedral. However, a sustainable and flourishing cathedral has a knock-on effect on any city and its regional economy. As we have seen in other dioceses, a cathedral can act as a hub, attracting more and more visitors, and also drawing their attention to the magnificent things that can be seen in surrounding churches.

Tonight Lichfield cathedral will switch on the new lights whose installation was made possible by the last £20 million grant from the Chancellor. However, the chapter roof is now leaking, and it holds the medieval library. May I engage my right hon. Friend in helping us to try to get some more money with which to restore and maintain the library?

I am sure that, following the Chancellor’s generosity yesterday in agreeing to provide an additional £20 million to help with the cathedral repair bill, Lichfield will be one of the first contenders to dip into that fund. As is so often the case after a Budget, the Church of England now has an opportunity to say a very big thank you for the additional money.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is my one short sentence. Is there a case for cathedrals to reach out and host events, whether they are classes or simply community events that help to bring the community together while also encouraging more people to visit cathedrals? I hope that that is short enough, Mr Speaker.

It is clear from the increasing attendance figures that Church of England cathedrals do bring more people together. It is also significant that, in the last decade, there has been a 14% increase in the number of educational visits, which demonstrates that cathedrals appeal to all generations.