The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
The Church of England actively promotes its 42 cathedrals as visitor centres, and together they contribute £220 million to the national economy. There are 10 million visitors to them annually, and 7,000 people are employed by them, supported by 15,000 dedicated volunteers.
Is the right hon. Lady aware of the excellent work of the clergy at Chester cathedral in increasing visitor numbers through tourist attractions, which of course has the added bonus of getting people into the cathedral for its original purpose of worship, and is there a lesson for other cathedrals to learn from this?
Yes, and I encourage all Members to visit Chester cathedral. Last year I invited the vice dean, Canon Peter Howell-Jones, to come and talk to us about how he had turned the fortunes of Chester cathedral around, making it a very attractive visitor attraction, and introducing a brewery and a falconry centre, opening the tower for tours and, intriguingly, removing the entry charge for all of that. He has now moved on to a new appointment and I wish him every success in that new cathedral.
Happy birthday, Mr Speaker.
Torbay as a tourist destination is blessed with places like Cockington parish church and the historic Paignton parish church. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that those who go to a church find the Holy Spirit, particularly if they are in distress, and an easy way of finding a place for prayer, rather than a ticket desk?
Yes. I have just been talking about Chester cathedral, where visitor numbers significantly increased with the removal of the entry charge. A church has always got to be a place where we can all go to find our spiritual base and recharge our spiritual batteries and, as my hon. Friend says, meet with the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit.