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General Committees

Debated on Monday 16 March 2020

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Grants to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Sir Graham Brady

† Baron, Mr John (Basildon and Billericay) (Con)

† Bradshaw, Mr Ben (Exeter) (Lab)

† Cates, Miriam (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)

† Caulfield, Maria (Lewes) (Con)

† Coutinho, Claire (East Surrey) (Con)

† Davies-Jones, Alex (Pontypridd) (Lab)

† Gullis, Jonathan (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)

Harman, Ms Harriet (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab)

† Huddleston, Nigel (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

† Kruger, Danny (Devizes) (Con)

† Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)

† Lopresti, Jack (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)

† McGinn, Conor (St Helens North) (Lab)

† Matheson, Christian (City of Chester) (Lab)

† Mayhew, Jerome (Broadland) (Con)

† Nichols, Charlotte (Warrington North) (Lab)

Tarry, Sam (Ilford South) (Lab)

Peter Stam, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 16 March 2020

[Sir Graham Brady in the Chair]

Draft Grants to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2020

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Grants to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2020.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Graham. The order is required so that the Government may continue to provide funding for the Churches Conservation Trust. I will start with a little background on the trust’s work. The CCT takes into its care some of our finest churches—mainly grade I and grade II*—that are no longer required for regular worship. The trust currently cares for more than 350 churches, encompassing 1,000 years of English history, architecture and archaeology. These include churches large and small, from isolated gems to urban Victorian buildings in villages, towns and cities across England.

The trust is a charity and was established by ecclesiastical legislation in 1969 as the Redundant Churches Fund. It demonstrates a successful partnership between the Church, the Government and the community, aimed at protecting an integral part of this country’s heritage. The Government presently provide 66% of the trust’s statutory funding and the Church Commissioners make a 34% contribution. The CCT has increasingly made use of its statutory grant to raise new income from donations, legacies and grant-giving foundations. This independent income now makes up more than 68% of its expenditure, and it has shown great initiative in developing activities and bringing its buildings back to life at a time of pressure on public funding.

Some interesting examples include champing—church camping—offering overnight stays in historic places of worship. This is developing into an important revenue-generating activity for the CCT, and it is a crucial route to engaging a new and younger audience with our cultural heritage. In the inaugural champing season of May to September 2015, almost 300 people champed overnight in four CCT churches in the south-east. Guests came from all over the world, with an additional revenue of £15,000 generated for the charity.

Another initiative is Discover Churches, supported by a special capital grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whereby larger CCT churches in towns and cities are setting a new standard in church heritage visiting. The programme is increasing community engagement with local heritage assets, as well as bringing in additional income for the CCT.

Filming has also been an important contributor to diversifying the CCT’s income streams and offers another creative route to supporting and conserving the estate. In the last year, the organisation has facilitated across its sites film and TV productions from the BBC, Sky, HBO and Netflix, and there remains still more potential to leverage the estate and attract international productions.

Consultancy work is a new and promising income stream for the trust. Over the past three years, it has earned £329,000. The CCT is working on projects with diocese, churches and community groups, as well as new maintenance business initiatives. The CCT recently signed a three-year contract to oversee the maintenance of the Quaker meeting houses in Norfolk, for example. This initiative looks set to expand and be rolled out further afield, with scope for further income generation. The trust is also investing in the Old Black Lion pub in Northampton, driving the regeneration of the area and providing diversified services and recreation as an income stream for Northampton’s St Peter’s church next door.

Historic places of worship are a valuable and vital part of this nation’s heritage. About 45% of all grade I listed buildings are Church of England churches or cathedrals. They represent some of the finest of our historic buildings and are showpieces of the most accomplished design and workmanship. As iconic buildings, they help to define our cities, towns and villages. They can be magnets for tourists but are also vital in their communities, as they might be the only community space left and are highly valued.

The trust has saved for the nation nine additional churches of exceptional merit since 2016, costing £4 million in total to bring these valuable places back into public use. The trust’s primary objective, and the greatest call on its funds, is the conservation of its churches, particularly on initial vesting, when buildings may have been out of use for a number of years. The trust has an excellent reputation for the quality of its conservation work. In 2015, the CCT won the European Union prize for cultural heritage/Europa Nostra award, in recognition of its role in promoting the architectural significance of historic places of worship and their essential function as centres of community life.

The work and the expense do not end there. With an estate of more than 350 buildings that could and should be serving communities, there is a rolling programme of repairs and new facilities across the estate. The trust’s work catalyses local economic growth through investment. Commencing in August 2019, Seventeen Nineteen, based in Sunderland, is an ambitious £4.3 million project to conserve and regenerate Holy Trinity church and reconnect the city with its past. It aims to bring the heritage of the church and old Sunderland to life through immersive events and performances. It will provide a cultural and community hub for local residents, connecting to the wider city and surrounding areas through a range of events, alongside a programme of heritage activities, markets, music and stories.

Additionally, the CCT is overseeing a £2.4 million project at St Swithun’s in Worcestershire. “Sound and Art at St Swithun’s” will be an inspirational sensory space to creatively demonstrate the potential of sound and art to engage, enthuse and inspire a greater connection with heritage and history, and the work will repair and conserve the building’s rare Georgian architecture.

In the year to September 2019, nearly 1.7 million people visited a CCT church. The trust’s churches are run by an army of 1,600 volunteers and I offer my thanks to those people, without whom events as diverse as fashion shows, concerts, flower festivals and farmers’ markets would not be able to take place. The trust offers its volunteers support and new skills through networking and training. All new volunteers are supported by the trust and taken through a volunteer welcome process. They receive a regular, regionally specific e-newsletter and can choose to subscribe to the CCT’s individual membership at a much reduced rate. The CCT hosts an annual gathering for the volunteers at which they recognise particular volunteer achievements.

The trust has shown that it is excellent at partnership working and is at the forefront of saving buildings by looking beyond the traditional heritage solutions. I am also aware of the CCT lending its expertise in the development and delivery of workshops on caring for historic places of worship, as part of the £1.8 million Taylor pilot scheme set up and funded by the Government to help to build a sustainable future for listed places of worship. I take this opportunity to personally thank the CCT for that support.

Finally, I should mention that there are three CCT churches in my constituency: St Michael’s church in Churchill, All Saints’ church in Spetchley and St Lawrence’s church in Evesham, which I had the pleasure of visiting just a few weeks ago. I hope that the Committee feels able to share my enthusiasm for the work of the trust and the vital role it plays in preserving and promoting a key aspect of our nation’s heritage, and that it will consent to approve the order.

It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Graham, and to see my good friend the Minister on the Government Front Bench. He and I spent many a happy hour together in the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, so I can confirm that he is well worthy of a position in Government. I pay tribute to him most generously for the promotion.

Churches play such an important role not only in our community, but, as the Minister stated, in marking our history and heritage. My church, St Werburgh’s, in Chester, is a fine example of an Edmund Kirby design. We also know that churches are under pressure, because they are historic, to maintain the original structures and design as well as their structural integrity. Our beloved Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin, late of this parish, made her name when she held a rooftop protest at her church in east London to highlight the dilapidated state of its roof. The churches I have referred to are in use, but I understand—I am sure the Minister will confirm this—that the order is for churches that have fallen out of use yet still have a role to play in the community.

The Minister mentioned a list of churches. Sadly, he did not mention St Paul’s church in Boughton, in Chester. When a similar Committee meets in a future Session of Parliament, I hope he will be able to list it as one of the churches that has received support. I call on the Committee to picture the scene: it sits high on the bluff above the bend in the River Dee on Barrel Well Hill, looking out over the meadows of Chester. It is a fantastic view and it is a fantastic church, but it is not occupiable at the moment because it is not safe. We have been trying to win some money to make the roof and structure safe so that we can use the church, and that example from my constituency demonstrates just how important the trust is. I join the Minister in thanking CCT for its work, although I am concerned that perhaps it is not funded by as much as it might be, which means that only a few churches a year can benefit. Perhaps the Minister might consider that.

The Churches Conservation Trust carries out crucial work to protect and regenerate beautiful historic churches across the UK, and it is important that we protect and support the heritage and architecture of such churches. For this reason, we will support the statutory instrument. I recognise that historic churches have a role to play at the heart of communities. In my constituency of Chester, there are 200 churches and many of them play a big role in bringing communities together.

Although the trust protects churches that are no longer viable for worship or congregation, these churches still carry a very high historical and heritage value. Indeed, a church is not simply a space designed for religion but a focal point for community and tourism activities. In Chester, the parish church of St John the Baptist is in an historic part of the city. The vicar there will always describe it as the first and original cathedral of Chester—although the clergy and chapter at the current cathedral might disagree—and it attracts visitors from across the country and the world.

Heritage sites are not only intrinsically valuable to a community; they carry economic value as well, contributing to economic growth, regeneration, education and tourism in an area. But there is no denying that funding for heritage projects is chronically lacking, leaving some historic churches, such as St John the Baptist, without adequate funding, and others, such as St Paul’s, empty and sadly a wasted space.

Generally, historic cities such as Chester and York—I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter in his place, so I will include Exeter in that list—struggle to protect these valuable historic sites because of the deep central Government cuts to local authorities. Local authorities are being forced to choose between providing basic services for vulnerable people and ensuring that ancient sites remain open and protected for future generations, so although this funding for the conservation trust is welcome, it is time that the Government recognised the urgent need for similar funding for grade I listed ancient sites across the UK, which are gradually suffering because of a lack of investment. Indeed, my own local authority, Cheshire West and Chester Council, has had more than £330 million removed from our budget since 2010, forcing it to prioritise funding for those most in need as opposed to maintaining historic sites in our city.

We will support the SI in the spirit of celebrating and funding heritage. However, may I ask the Minister to clarify two points? First, how is funding through the Churches Conservation Trust disbursed and what is the mechanism for overseeing that disbursement to ensure that it goes to the most deserving cases? Secondly, may I make the case for the Government to reassess their strategy to protect heritage more broadly and to allow local authorities to bid for funding for specific ancient heritage sites, including old former churches that are in desperate need of protection?

I thank my good friend the hon. Member for City of Chester for his kind words in his introduction, and I would like to reciprocate. It has been a genuine pleasure to work with him over many years on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee and on other matters. I hope we will continue this kind of relationship for many years to come. I would certainly like to be in this role for quite a few years; I do not know whether he wishes to stay in the same role, but I know that his interest in all DCMS matters and in heritage is genuine. I look forward to working with him on a cross-party basis, as is the case with so many DCMS matters.

The hon. Gentleman raised a few points about the scale of the problem and he is absolutely right. He mentioned many churches in his constituency, and I would love to come and visit, if he can show me around. Perhaps we could visit the zoo as well. The scale of the heritage challenge is immense. The Church of England, for example, cares for more than 12,208 listed places of worship, and every single year many churches come up for potential change of use. This relates to the questions he asked about the finances and other matters, which I shall address first.

On ensuring that the money is spent wisely, my officials hold regular meetings with the CCT, both independently and with the Church Commissioners, which jointly fund the CCT, to discuss its strategy, the maintenance of buildings and new acquisitions. In addition, the CCT presents its annual reports and accounts to the Secretary of State, and they are examined before being laid before Parliament every year.

The Secretary of State also holds the CCT to account through a funding agreement, which sets out its priorities, along with the indicators that are used to measure its performance. The CCT has found its share of efficiency savings over the past few years. It has developed a number of successful new initiatives in order to generate additional income, as I mentioned, which now makes up 68% of its income and is a testament to its innovation.

On managing an increasing supply of redundant churches, we are realistic about what the trust can cope with, and need to ensure that the trust’s resources can meet the repair needs of buildings to be vested. Of the 20 to 25 churches becoming redundant each year, only two or three of the most significant ones will come to the trust, and the number is being carefully managed through co-operation among the trust, DCMS and the Church.

On Government funding, the hon. Member for City of Chester may wish to know that between 1 April 1994 and 31 March 2019 the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded more than £985 million to more than 6,400 heritage projects. That money has been used for such things as urgent conservation work, new facilities, the conservation of contents, and heritage outreach projects, including skills and education programmes. Furthermore, £115 million of that money was awarded to 61 cathedrals through 133 projects, and £44 million of it has been spent on building conservation. The National Lottery Heritage Fund therefore also plays a major role in the sector.

Government funding for the CCT is an effective and successful part of the support that we give to heritage. The CCT is committed to ensuring that these exceptional buildings remain in good repair—open now and for future generations. I thank the trustees, under the leadership of Peter Ainsworth, the staff and the many volunteers who ensure that the churches are open and welcoming.

I have highlighted some of the programmes put in place by the trust to generate independent income from philanthropic endeavours and appropriate commercial use of the buildings. We support those endeavours, which increase the use of the buildings in a way that anchors them more firmly in their local communities, which love and use them. The endeavours also increase access, use and protection, and reduce their dependence on public funds. That, in the end, is how those historic buildings will come to thrive, and continue to thrive: through the people and communities that love them and want to see them continue in use.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Ms Karen Buck

† Anderson, Fleur (Putney) (Lab)

Betts, Mr Clive (Sheffield South East) (Lab)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

† Chishti, Rehman (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)

Hendrick, Sir Mark (Preston) (Lab/Co-op)

† Hinds, Damian (East Hampshire) (Con)

† Hopkins, Rachel (Luton South) (Lab)

† Howell, Paul (Sedgefield) (Con)

† Jones, Andrew (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)

† Kinnock, Stephen (Aberavon) (Lab)

Latham, Mrs Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)

† Lord, Mr Jonathan (Woking) (Con)

† Menzies, Mark (Fylde) (Con)

† O'Brien, Neil (Harborough) (Con)

† Philp, Chris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)

† Pursglove, Tom (Corby) (Con)

† Qureshi, Yasmin (Bolton South East) (Lab)

Seb Newman, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 16 March 2020

[Ms Karen Buck in the Chair]

Draft Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020.

As always, Ms Buck, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. This order removes the prohibition on recording Crown court proceedings to enable judges’ sentencing remarks in the Crown court to be recorded and broadcast. Currently, the recording and broadcasting of court proceedings is prohibited unless, with the consent of the Lord Chief Justice, an order is made specifying the circumstances in which those prohibitions can be lifted. That has already been done to allow live streaming from the Supreme Court since 2009, and in the civil and criminal divisions of the Court of Appeal.

The order before us extends the exemption from the prohibition—the circumstances under which court proceedings can be filmed—to include the sentencing remarks delivered by a High Court judge or senior circuit judge delivering criminal sentences in the Crown court. Recordings will only be made by broadcasters who have been granted permission in writing by the Lord Chancellor. Media parties have been working in the Court of Appeal since 2013, and we will be taking this next step forward with those experienced broadcasters.

For many years before I entered Parliament, I prosecuted and defended cases in the magistrates court, Crown court and Court of Appeal. The public want transparency and accountability. Under the current system, not all the remarks are taken into account when a sentence is passed, so people cannot know the mitigating or aggravating features that the judge has taken into account. It is unfair on the judiciary for them to be labelled in the media as having simply given “x” sentence. The order will ensure that it is possible to make clear to the public the full circumstances considered by the judge, to ensure that there is full confidence in our great judiciary and our legal system.

My hon. Friend puts it extremely well, based on his many years of experience. By broadcasting the full sentencing remarks, we can make sure that sentences are fully understood by the public. It is very easy for the public to hear just a headline sentence, and not to understand or appreciate the reasons why that sentence has been handed down. By broadcasting the remarks in full—they will be available on the internet, and potentially broadcast live—the understanding that my hon. Friend has described can be better achieved. I should add that the decision to extend the filming of the sentencing remarks of senior judges to the Crown court is fully supported by the Lord Chief Justice and follows a trial in eight courts, which in turn followed a debate on this topic in Parliament in 2016.

We have, of course, carefully considered concerns about the potential impact of court broadcasting on victims, witnesses and other vulnerable court users. That is why only the judge’s sentencing remarks will be broadcast. This order does not permit the filming of anything else that goes on in court, whether it be submissions by barristers on either side, victims, witnesses, staff, defendants, jurors or anybody else. Only the sentencing remarks being delivered by the judge can be filmed and then broadcast. To give the Committee further assurance, I should add that the judge in any particular case has complete discretion, and if they choose to not give permission for their sentencing remarks to be broadcast, that judge can withhold their consent. If any media organisation breaches the terms of this order, or breaches the judge’s ruling on the matter, they will of course be in contempt of court.

I mentioned that the filming will be available on the internet. For the largest cases, it may also be broadcast live, but with a time delay to make sure anything unsuitable can be intercepted prior to broadcast. A limited number of specified media companies—the larger ones, such as the BBC, ITV and Sky—will be authorised to do this, and one of them will nominate a film crew to film the sentencing remarks. The cost of doing so will fall entirely on the broadcasters; it will not be borne by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

In conclusion, this order, which follows a trial and has received the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, will open up our judicial system a little more. It will give the public a better understanding of sentencing remarks and why particular sentences are being handed down, and it is a welcome move to demonstrate openness and transparency in our judicial proceedings. I commend the order to the House.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck. I am grateful to the Minister for introducing the order, which my party and I support in principle. Transparency of proceedings is an important element of our legal system. In R v. Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy, of 1924, Lord Chief Justice Hewart stated:

“justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.”

Although our courts are public spaces, in reality the average person would not be able to walk to the nearest Crown court halfway through the working day to watch the proceedings.

The move might also serve to better inform the public about how the courts work. Increasing public understanding of the court system allows for transparency in one of the most important institutions of the state. Evidence suggests that the more informed people are about the justice system, the more confidence they have in it. We also accept that we live in times when people increasingly rely on the television and the internet for access to news and current affairs. It is vital to respond to changes in technology and society, and therefore to allow the cameras into our Crown courts.

Like me, the shadow Minister was a barrister. We appeared in courts at the same time, and it was always a pleasure to do so. Public accountability is crucial, and it links to the point that the Minister made earlier about judicial discretion. This is about letting the public know how the system works and why decisions have been made. It is also crucial to ensure that judges can decide, for whatever reason, that filming should not happen. Our great legal system works on the acceptance of judicial discretion across the board so that there is no straitjacket involved, and the order allows for that.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. It was a great pleasure appearing in court with him, sometimes against him and sometimes on his side. Although it is important that justice is seen to be done, that cannot be at the expense of the proper administration of justice, the integrity of the trial process or the reputation of the courts. The courts deal with very serious matters that can affect the liberty, livelihood and reputation of all parties involved.

Has the Minister considered that if only the judge’s sentencing remarks are broadcast, the public will have only a snapshot view of the case? Although sentencing remarks include summaries, and a recapping of the salient points of the Crown’s case and the defendant’s mitigation, it is impossible for a judge to set out everything that they consider in their decision. Does the Minister agree that there is scope for misunderstanding about why and how a sentence has been reached? Will he clarify what guidance and training will be made available for court staff, and where the budget for it will come from?

We are pleased that the order will protect victims, court staff and legal professionals from exposure. However, it will no doubt open judges up to intense scrutiny. Televising the sentencing remarks will not prevent certain sentences from being unpopular with the public, and it will not stop declarations about “enemies of the people”. Will the Minister tell us what will be done to protect judges from any increase in attention that results from the change?

Our justice system has always been associated with dignity, and it is far removed from the sensationalist aspects of the justice systems in other countries where proceedings are broadcast. Although we welcome the order, we should not underestimate or disregard its potential impact. I would be grateful if the Minister dealt with the concerns I have raised.

I would be delighted to answer the three questions that the shadow Minister posed. First, I will deal with the matter of broadcasting only the sentencing remarks. It is true that sentencing remarks cannot adequately cover every detail of a case that might have lasted for several days or even weeks. However, most judges’ sentencing remarks in the more serious cases provide a good summary of the most important facts and, critically, they give a good rationale for why a particular sentence has been handed down. Sometimes I, as the Minister responsible for courts and sentencing, get correspondence from victims or their families asking why a particular sentence was given, because it was, in their view, too lenient. Having the full sentencing remarks available will give the rationale to victims, their families and the wider public, so that they understand why a particular sentence has been handed down. They may, of course, still not agree with the sentence, but at least there will be a fuller explanation than there is now.

I say to hon. Members that if any of their constituents have concerns about sentences being too lenient, there is of course the unduly lenient sentence scheme, whereby, within 28 days of a sentence for a serious offence being handed down, the victim can apply to the Attorney General, who can then refer the case to the Court of Appeal. I think that the sentences in more than 100 cases were increased through that mechanism in the calendar year 2018.

The shadow Minister’s second question related to guidance. There are 103 High Court judges and senior circuit judges whose sentencing remarks might be filmed in the way that I have described, and they will receive full training from the Judicial Office.

The third question was more general: will judges be exposed to public opprobrium if their sentences are considered to be unduly lenient or are unpopular? I will say first that we certainly do not intend to create the kind of media circus that we see surrounding some cases in, for example, the USA. We all remember the famous O. J. Simpson case back in the mid-1990s. I think that by filming just the sentencing remarks, we will avoid the wider media circus that can develop.

In relation to protecting judges’ independence, the Lord Chancellor has of course sworn an oath of office to protect our judicial independence in this country. In fact, last September when a Supreme Court judgment was handed down—the judgment was televised—that was not universally popular in every quarter, the Lord Chancellor did discharge his duty. Whatever he may have thought about the judgment, and whatever we all may have thought about the judgment, he stood up and defended the independent judiciary and the right of those judges to make that judgment independently. The Lord Chancellor and, I am sure, all of us in Parliament will ensure that we defend judicial independence.

I hope that I have answered the questions that have been asked. Once again, I commend the order to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.