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Cathedrals: Contribution to Local Economies

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 20 June 2019

4. What estimate the Church of England has made of the contribution that cathedrals make to the local economy; and if she will make a statement. (911481)

It is estimated that in 2017 there were more than 10 million tourist and leisure visitors to our cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey, generating some £125 million for their local economies. That is a 37% increase from 2004, the last time that that was measured.

That is encouraging news; I know how Lichfield Cathedral benefits the local community.

Mr Speaker, you may be interested to learn that next year will be the 900th anniversary of the birth of Thomas à Becket and the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the American colony of the Pilgrim Fathers. To mark that, I believe there will be an initiative: the year of the cathedrals. Will my right hon. Friend say a little more about how that will stimulate local economies?

We had a meeting of the deans of cathedrals in Parliament this week, and the Dean of Lichfield, who is a fantastic champion for that cathedral, came up with an interesting proposal, through the Association of English Cathedrals, to introduce a pilgrimage passport. That would encourage people—not just from this country, but from abroad—to visit more of our cathedrals, obtaining a stamp at every one, and would indeed assist the overall economy.

Having a cathedral city is a very fine thing, but will the right hon. Lady explain the arcane procedures through which a town can get a cathedral? Many places that I would call diddly-squat little places have a cathedral, whereas Huddersfield, a bursting, successful major university town, does not have the status of a cathedral city.

The hon. Gentleman is right: the process is arcane and complicated. My nearest city of Birmingham has what is known as a parish church cathedral, whereas Coventry, the city across the other side of my constituency, had an ancient cathedral which was bombed and then renewed. I think the best thing I can do for the hon. Gentleman is to write to him about how this is arrived at.

As the hon. Gentleman is now at the mid-point of his parliamentary career, having served for 40 years, perhaps he can devote the next 40 to campaigning on this important matter for his constituents.