As a result of the debate I had two years ago, a campaign was mounted. In that debate I called for £50 million for cathedrals. It did not succeed, but this year in the Budget we got £20 million from the Chancellor. Of course he cannot open a purse at the Dispatch Box, but I hope when the Minister comes to reply he will promise to talk to ministerial colleagues about how a little really does go a long way in this context.

One of the enduring sounds of the English countryside and the English townscape is the bells of our churches. We have a unique tradition of campanology in this country. I was talking only yesterday to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, who encouraged me to talk about this briefly, saying how wonderful it would be if more young people took up what is the mathematical art of bell-ringing. If the bells could ring out from the parish churches of England, acknowledging the fact that your Lordships’ House had devoted some time to their future and that a Government had been generous in recognising their problems, I would be delighted indeed. The bells ringing out might even have the additional advantage of driving the bats out of the belfry.

1.03 pm

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab): My Lords, listening to that leaves me with a certain amount of bemusement. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for bringing this debate and subject to our attention. He was in what I can only call symphonic form, with that lovely opening movement, which I wanted to go for a lot longer, as we visited, through his experience and the music of his words, those rather picturesque places in Lincolnshire and other places. However, there was the sudden shock as a new movement was brought in, where the word “bats” suddenly changed everything and made me wonder how on earth to respond. As a Methodist, responding to a debate about the parish church is the equivalent of Pavlov’s dog responding to a bell. The opportunity to interfere in other people’s affairs is too great a temptation to neglect. We do not have belfries in Methodism, so I guess we do not have bats. I will leave that bit of it aside. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, then moved into that last scherzoid movement, where money came into it and the pace quickened. So did the temperature. I might achieve that myself by the time I finish my own remarks.

As a phrase, “the parish church” simply conjures up all kinds of images that are not dissimilar from the ones spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. Simon Jenkins in his lovely book gave us 1,000 of the best churches in England. Of course, nearly all of

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them were village churches in one place or another, and every single page was taken with high-definition photography. That showed us why it is lovely to be British and why it is nice to have a day in the countryside. The church I am responsible for, Wesley’s Chapel in London, crept in through the back door and is one of the 1,000, but only grudgingly. Simon Jenkins said that it was a bit of a mausoleum, really, spoilt by all those Victorian monuments. I thought he was referring to Westminster Abbey for a moment, but it was us. I will take him there one day and show him that it is better than he thinks.

There are then, of course, all those monumental works that we become accustomed to, such as Nikolaus Pevsner’s The Buildings of England: 46 volumes, cataloguing in great detail all the great buildings we are thinking about. John Betjeman did it in a different style and mood—how wonderful he was too as a character—helping us to see the importance of the parish church.

All these works point to the importance of our built heritage, but the large majority of these 16,000 churches to which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, referred are in the countryside. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy”, of course, is almost imprinted on one’s heart: those roses “born to blush unseen” and waste their fragrance on a “desert air”. The rural community was served by these churches when they were isolated from each other and were communities in their own right. Since industrialisation and the arrival of the motorcar they have been on a tourist trail. They are visited much more often, but in their day, before the pre-emptive takeover of the Reformation and before industrialisation, they were positively quintessential places that drew the communities they served together. The dark satanic mills of England’s green and pleasant land drove our imagination into overdrive so that we could think of the parish church as just what we were losing, just what we wanted to keep at all costs.

We have rather fantasised the parish church in the course of these historical developments. Once upon a time, as well as worship, business was transacted in the church. People were at play in the church: they had banquets and parties in the church. Schools were run in the church. There were mystery plays in the church porch. Feasts were held. Then there was a rather puritanical moment when ale could not be served in church, so village halls got built. Suddenly all the fun things started happening in the village hall and the church was simply left for its spiritual purposes. That is a rather sad moment to record in the history of our land. I want to have fun in church; I do not want to have to go to a dingy little hall to do it. The harvest festival suppers I have been to in church halls, when there was a lovely space just across the road, do not leave me with happy memories.

Then has come the reinvention of the village, as wealthy people bought houses as rural retreats, or they became dormitories for commuters, or places where the retired emigrated to, or second homes for those with ample means. Suddenly the village was reinvented. It was no longer the community of people indigenous to it. The vision of the English countryside as “timeless”, dotted with ancient houses and an immemorial landscape,

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became what featured in our imaginations and on those railway posters from the early days of British Rail, attracting us to leave the cities and go into the countryside. Suddenly we were thinking about “The Archers”, “The Vicar of Dibley” and “Midsomer Murders”. They all brought a rather fantasised understanding of the village to our imagination. Villages progressively lost their doctor, their school, their garage, their pub, their shop and their post office. The church, too, should have gone under by way of those same market forces. However, the wealthy people who had come to live there put their hands in their pockets, organised events and signed cheques, and against the evidence of the market the village church was maintained.

Alongside all that—I am sorry about the history lesson but I have had to dispose myself against my natural inclinations in order to remind myself of the real importance of the parish church—there is the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and all the preservation societies that the noble Lord sits on, or has sat on for many years. Sir Roy Strong, in his history of the parish church, makes a rather different remark. He suggests that the word “preservation” has been unfortunate, that churches were great at adapting to their circumstances and at serving the needs of their generation, and that preservation seems to oblige us not to change a thing but to keep things exactly as they were. That is very difficult to imagine in an organism that is breathing and alive.

Those who think of the parish church in these idealised ways—Jane Austen, George Eliot and Anthony Trollope—have left their imaginative mark on our minds, but I want us to debunk some of that and take the parish church on its own terms. Be good and feel good about it but do not keep it as a kind of mothballed creature protected against the depredations of time.

I also want to bring the imagination into the cities, where parish churches also exist. I want to go from “Dibley” to “Rev.”. Shoreditch, where that was filmed, is just around the corner from where I live. So there are parish churches in cities as well as in the countryside, and they, too, do extraordinary things. The chapel that I serve is in a covenanted relationship with our parish church, St Giles Cripplegate. The sacred space has often become secular space in the cities, where space is at a premium, and we should remember that very seriously. In our little outfit, for example, as well as being a tourist attraction—we get tens of thousands of visitors a year to what is effectively a world heritage site—we have 60 or 70 non-governmental organisations or charities within half a mile of us, all because we are near the City of London. They are headquartered quite close to us and use our premises all the time. We introduce charitable bodies to each other so that critical mass might be achieved.

The boys’ school—a state school—just 100 yards from us uses our space. We invigilate examinations for children who have been excluded from school. We provide a safe space and proper invigilation not on school property. When Ramadan falls at a certain time of the year, Muslims come in and find a place where they can lay their mats, turn in the right direction and offer their prayers. When the forensics were being done for 7/7 and dreadful things were being done in

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the Honourable Artillery Company across the street, people who could no longer stomach what they were having to do month after month in the examination of human remains would come over for a cup of tea, which we were very happy to serve.

Extraordinary things can happen when you have that kind of space as your legacy. It is terribly important that the parish church should be understood to be any ecclesial body which, as well as having its own interests in the field of spirituality and worship, sees itself as being of public service. That should win the acclaim of people instead of the opprobrium that it too often gets.

We have a marvellous thing happening at the moment. The boys’ school that I mentioned has 150 teenage boys singing in a choir. To join the choir, they have to come to school an hour early. They have breakfast and then come to our place to practise their singing. A contingent of them is taking part in a performance of “The Armed Man” at the Albert Hall in September with children from Belgium, France and Germany to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. All these things are energies that we can harness and give some focus to in the space that we have to administer. So let churches do the churchy thing, but let all of us remember that we have a service—

Lord Spicer (Con): I am sorry; I did not want to break into what is a brilliant speech, but in a way the noble Lord is dealing with the very easy bit—he is talking about space being used in the cities. At some point can he briefly get back to the village church, where there is a serious problem? He said, “Don’t leave them mothballed”, but where you have one vicar now serving 10 churches, how do you do anything else with it?

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I am very happy to offer a reply as that is the very basis upon which Methodists have been organised since time began: with one minister for about 15 churches. Either I would advise the noble Lord to come and join us or I would be very happy to put appropriate documentation under his nose or the names of people he can talk to to help him with his problem.

I was into my concluding remarks and my overdrive—what the Welsh call “hwyl”—with an appeal to see the parish church in its most generic and ecumenical way. It is an appeal to recognise that in the kind of space that people like me are responsible for in our church lives, we see the tools or the premises that we have as being at the disposal of the society that we serve. If only others would see us in that way instead of in a sectarian way, the energies and synergies would be very extraordinary indeed.

1.16 pm

Lord Redesdale (LD): My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for initiating this debate. I start by talking about St Mary’s Priory church in Abergavenny. I have never been to this church, although I hear that it is very good. However, the reason I raise

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it is that, when I heard that the debate was taking place, Mr Humphrey Amos, who works in the Whips’ Office for the Liberal Democrats, immediately said, “You must mention this church because there is an appeal going on at the moment for a roof fund and any plug will be particularly good”. So, even though he was useless at predicting the time of this debate, I promised him that I would raise it.

That perhaps goes to the heart of a lot of people’s views of parish churches. If the debate had taken place somewhat later in the Session, I think that there would have been a raft of letters asking us to mention particular churches which are at risk, where the roof is going or where funds are needed. Therefore, I am thankful that we started off quite early in the Session before there was a chance to get those letters. I know that many noble Lords will have taken part in drives to raise funds or have worked with their local community. Of course, this is not just a rural issue, because the parish church is not just a rural phenomenon. In town, you go to your parish church and each church suffers the same problems. In fact, that has been brought very much to people’s attention with the recent television series “Rev.”, which gives a very clear indication of it. One of the major plot lines is that the electrics are for ever on the blink and the priest does not have the money to replace them, so he is for ever looking at how he can deal with that problem.

Unfortunately, that is an issue that I come across in many rural churches. My own rural church is Holy Trinity in Horsley in Northumberland. We are in the most rural part of England. The vicar has to deal with six churches, some of which are 30 miles apart. It is quite a feat in itself to service that type of community. Even though we have a falling population—in Northumberland we have an ageing population and some of the rural areas are depopulating—I have always found it amazing that the churches are still seen as being at the heart of the community, and much effort goes in to keeping them in the condition they are in. It is hard to think of any other institution like that. The congregations have fallen but the churches are still in excellent condition and being used on a regular basis. The problem we face is that there has been a change in people’s perceptions of how they want to worship. The practice of turning up at church on a regular occasion is falling out of style with many of the population as people change the way in which they look at it

However, when a big occasion takes place, such as a wedding or a funeral, the church is then again the centre of the community and gets packed out. I went to a funeral recently in Holy Trinity and I learned a salutary lesson. If you go to a northern funeral you have to turn up extremely early because people go to the church and want to sit at the back. The closer you come to the actual time of the funeral, the further forward you end up. At a recent funeral I thought I would try to sneak in at the end, to show I was there, and I ended up sitting in the choir stalls right next to the coffin. It was almost an embarrassing experience.

To keep these churches going we have a raft of people who come forward to do the everyday necessities such as cleaning the gutters. We have a team who go

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round cleaning the gutters of the churches on a regular basis and looking after the churchyards. I cannot support the view of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that we should start to cull bats. If they cause some damage it is probably acceptable because of the threat that bats are facing, and churches are a refuge.

There is an enormous amount of nature in rural churchyards. Indeed, one of the problems we have is that there are diverse mushrooms growing in the churchyard so that people have made forays looking for a certain type of magic mushroom.

That leads me to two points that I wish to raise. The problems for churches have ever been thus. They have grown and shrunk throughout history and are indicators of the state of their communities. One of the standard pieces of work of an archaeologist is to look at the size of a church and to realise when that community was much larger and much richer. This is especially true in the Cotswolds, where a great deal of money was made from wool. Of course, the Woolsack is based on that money and most of the churches were built with it. We therefore now have enormous churches serving much smaller communities.

An enormous amount of work and rebuilding was done on churches in the Victorian period, and many of the problems we are now having are caused by roofs which are coming to the end of their lives. That puts a great deal of strain and stress on the community.

Now that some of these churches have gone forward we have a big problem with churchyards; many of them are filling up and there is little space—even in rural communities—for them to expand. As a society we should perhaps go back to the Shakespearean view: Yorick was dug up because you only got 10 years underground before someone else was put in your place. We have to start thinking about how we are going to use churchyards.

I commend the work of the Church Conservation Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund in preserving our churches. I do not want to denigrate the work of English Heritage in ensuring that we preserve the historical nature of churches, but we should recognise that they are living buildings and have to move forward to meet certain needs. If we have to change the layout of churches to move with the times and ensure that people use these buildings, that is the best way of preserving parish churches.

Although there is a problem with failing congregations, churches are fundamental to the way in which people view the countryside—and not only the countryside but city churches as well. They have a future and will bring congregations together. However, we should not forget that they are living buildings and that, used properly, they can bring a community together.

On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, I do not believe that we should see them as the preserve of the Church of England—although the Church of England has to maintain the 16,000 buildings. In Holy Trinity, I encountered a not very large congregation, the majority of whom were from different faiths. However, they all came there to worship together because it is a centre in that small community.

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We also need to consider the stress that is being placed on our parish priests. In the north-east we have a problem in funding and finding parish priests. It is a difficult job.

I commend the work of the bishops who manage this large edifice. I particularly recognise the work of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Martin, who is a fantastic inspiration. He goes round and talks to communities, especially about the difficulty in keeping these buildings maintained. He is a calming presence, puffing on his pipe, when he looks at church roofs, as I have done with him. I know he is retiring next year.

It sums up our view of churches that, although we consider them to be in peril, suffering and having difficulties, as you go round from village to village and see well kept churches in pristine condition, you know they have a future as the heart of the community.

1.26 pm

Lord Mawson (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this timely and necessary debate. As a non-conformist minister I would like the debate to widen and take on board the non-conformist churches which are responsible for a large proportion of the 55,000 church buildings in this country.

Many of the traditional church structures in this country are facing some serious challenges and are reviewing the uses of their buildings, assets and people. This is happening at the same time as the present Government are rightly encouraging a localism agenda, which potentially brings many opportunities to the churches, but I worry that the dots, in practice, are not being joined up.

I have been a minister in the United Reform Church for over 30 years and have experienced the best and worst of what the Christian denominations have to offer in this country. At their best, they have offered kindness, opportunity and a strong sense of community that has helped relieve social tensions and supported the most vulnerable in our society. At their worst, they have been closed-off, sadly sometimes inward-looking, with their heads in the sand if not in the clouds.

Where there are successful churches, I have seen a strong correlation between their actions and those of a well run small business or enterprise. Fundamentally, the churches are organisations with accounts, property, services and employees on the scale of a medium to large corporation. They have a business model of sorts that is based around the attendance and donations of the congregation. However, since many of the churches’ traditional social services were appropriated by the formation of the welfare state, many, but certainly not all, have lost sight of the practicalities of daily life, and the amount of red tape they now have to dance around has created a risk-averse culture. Better to do nothing than to take the risk of doing something and getting it wrong.

Arguably, this lack of clear focus and positive activity by the churches, rather than just a straightforward rise in secular beliefs, led to a drop in congregation numbers, breaking their fragile model and leading to a spiral of

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decline. That this decline has not been more pronounced is due to the assets the churches have, the disposal of which has allowed them to continue as if their present structures and often relative inaction were justifiable. It is not. It is not sustainable and, more importantly, it is causing many churches to fail to fulfil the vast majority of their social potential.

Some of our churches have still not responded to 1945. The problem is that generally they have turned their backs on business and enterprise and do not understand it. Often there is an ideological element to this, an anti-business mentality guided by well-meaning but naive ideas that capitalism is in some way immoral, that profit is theft, and that globalisation is really a gloss for exploitation. These were the views that predominated among the faith and social sectors when I first came to work as a minister in the East End of London in the early 1980s, and in my experience were in practice the drivers of poverty and a dependency culture in the area. We need only look at the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral in recent years to see that these attitudes still exist. Where there has not been outright hostility to business and enterprise, there has often been apathy and the growth of its symbiotic partner, a grants-based dependency culture.

The financial position and attitude of many, but not all, non-conformist churches in particular is not healthy, but these issues are endemic throughout Christian faith organisations. I know this from my first-hand experience of conducting consultancy work for churches across the nation. Here I must declare an interest as a director of the agency One Church, 100 Uses, a church-based social enterprise I created with colleagues to undertake this work and support churches in this endeavour. The key to transforming the situation is to embrace sound business principles. Our company recently undertook a piece of work with the Church in Wales, and I believe that our recommendations carry considerable resonance with the rest of the denominations across the United Kingdom.

If churches are going to survive and play a useful role in society and our buildings are to continue to inspire, Christian communities need to embrace the opportunities that, in time, the localism agenda may bring. They are certainly going to have to become more flexible to the needs of their communities as the next generation of young people grows up in an enterprise culture. Although mostly old and many in need of some attention, church buildings are actually assets, but because they are underused they often become liabilities, sapping the energy of the ministers and congregations who look after them. They need to be used more often and to become income generators. To achieve this requires some entrepreneurial ability. If that is not present in the immediate congregation, people need to look outside their usual comfort zone and build partnerships with sympathetic local small business people and entrepreneurs.

On our recent trip to Wales, we visited a church with an attached café. It was heavily subsidised by grants, a situation that is simply not going to be possible in the coming years. Over the road was a curry house, the winner of the Cardiff “Best Indian Restaurant” award 2011. Did that restaurateur know

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anything about the culture of churches? Probably not, but did he know something about how to make a small food-based business work in the local area? Actually, yes, he did. However, the church people had no idea of his existence. He was outside the realm of their understanding even though he was a member of the local community, because they had not thought to cross the road to speak to him and learn from him. When this is done, I can say from experience that interesting things happen. This is not just an isolated incident or a Welsh problem. It is a whole enclosed way of thinking that pervades the public sector as much as the churches.

Where there is some entrepreneurial flair within the church, it needs to be supported by a permissive attitude that sees the buildings as assets to be used and within which innovation and enterprise are encouraged alongside reflection, prayer and contemplation. Our beautiful ancient monasteries knew a great deal about this approach and embodied a culture of work and prayer that we need to engage with again. We are certainly actively doing this in the church I have been responsible for in Bromley-by-Bow, where with colleagues we have created over 50 businesses. That enterprise culture has helped to provide many hundreds of jobs and thousands of homes. There is nothing new here for Christianity.

The clergy are not generally regarded as the most entrepreneurial of people, and usually with good reason: you do not become a member of the cloth to open a haberdasher’s. However, for the clergy to be fully trained but ignorant of the very basics of business is irresponsible, if not inexcusable. A minister I spoke to recently said that by the time he had finished his theological training, he could not read a set of accounts, even though his church’s funds would ultimately be his responsibility. I find this baffling to say the least, but unfortunately not surprising. I would suggest that churches need to revisit their clergy recruitment and training and address this gaping hole in their education to give people the tools to put their natural creativity into practice.

Beyond the lack of entrepreneurs and a reluctance to move from a position of complacent decline, there are greater problems of leadership and management. As has already been mentioned, throughout the denominations there is an ever increasing number of church buildings that a single minister is becoming responsible for. It is a situation that is not going to attract good candidates to ministry or keep the current group fresh and motivated. Instead of being the salt and the yeast in the community and addressing social issues, ministers find themselves engaging in an endless round of services and meetings about property. If the churches are to embrace some of the opportunities presenting themselves in the localism agenda and the enterprise culture within which we all now live, hard questions need to asked about closing some churches, at least temporarily, to allow ministers to get involved in the communities in which they are meant to be leaders and to focus on making the other churches in their care self-sustaining. For churches to develop working and enterprising partnerships with their communities, it takes time and the ability to take the long-term view, but those are precisely the resources

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that the churches should be bringing to bear. There are some great examples of people doing all of this right across the country, but they are far too few and the lessons are often not being learnt by our church structures.

I am making all these suggestions to help revive the churches and encourage a practical and creative culture, one that is less about dependency and more about making the most of opportunities and assets. In spite of the churches’ committee-heavy structures and wide turning circles, there is time to rectify their problems; the situation is not irretrievable. It requires a shift in mindset that challenges a culture heavy with bureaucracy to become one that encourages entrepreneurs and celebrates ingenuity. There is a theological element that the churches are failing to grasp here. We believe that we are made in the image of God the creator and therefore we are creative beings. The fact is that business principles are those that work best at putting these ideas into practice, having been tried and tested by the competition of the marketplace. They are not “evil”, but are a set of tools that can be used for moral or, of course, immoral ends. I urge the churches to embrace this enterprising culture, to use their talents and join the next generation of young people as they become ever more entrepreneurial, while they still have the time.

1.37 pm

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, we are meant to declare our interests in this House, but I think that standing here dressed like this is probably a visual declaration. Noble Lords will not be surprised to learn that I believe that the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to take note of the importance of our parish churches, is one that I am happy to endorse. It applies in Wales and Scotland as well, of course, although I need to be a bit careful of the Presbyterian conscience and not presume any authority north of the border. Born as I was in a non-conformist manse, indeed a Congregationalist manse, I welcome the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Griffiths and Lord Mawson, to our debate. A good deal of what I will say later about community engagement in our parish churches would apply equally to churches of other traditions.

The diocese of Norwich actually outflanks the diocese of Lincoln in all sorts of ways. It has more medieval churches per square mile than anywhere else in western Europe. In our 577 parishes there are 642 churches serving a total population of only 900,000 people. I have parishes in urban areas of well over 20,000 in population, but I also have 150 parishes with a total population of fewer than 150 people each, in which the parish church will often seat the whole village and several other settlements nearby as well. So “parish” means different things in different places, but the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was right to say that all parishioners have a right to the ministry of their parish church.

Of course, our churches are not owned by their congregations or by the parochial church councils: nor are they branches of the diocese, let alone of the

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national church. It is the local worshipping communities which, largely, maintain these great historic buildings, especially in rural areas.

I sometimes ask people what Norfolk might look like if you removed all the parish churches from the landscape. It would lose so much of what makes each individual community distinct and, indeed, what makes our city distinct. Norwich Union, now Aviva, has used the cathedral spire in different ways as its logo for many years. It is no surprise that a great church represents that great company’s location of origin—we should have patented it. Remove those parish churches from Norfolk or from any other county and you would also have a spiritually flattened landscape. Our parish churches are hallowed by prayer. Two-thirds of them are surrounded by churchyards: a reminder of the gift of previous generations and now, in many cases, nature reserves—too much tidiness can be destructive. They are centres of community life and, of course, the worship within them spills over into the establishment of all sorts of social action agencies, cultural events, drama, choirs, music-making and all the rest.

Before I look at the community life in our churches more fully, I will say a word or two about the buildings themselves and remind the Minister and the Government just what a good deal they get from the Church of England. I recall a survey, not many years ago, which said that 37% of the population believed that the clergy of the Church of England were paid by the Government—there’s a thought. An even higher proportion of people believed that our church buildings were maintained by the taxpayer. That continues to be true. With the increasing significance of the Heritage Lottery Fund in relation to historic buildings—which I welcome, including its repair grant scheme for places of worship—less now comes from the UK taxpayer to maintain this massive part of our built heritage. No other country in Europe has less financial support from the taxpayer for ecclesiastical heritage than England—which, ironically, has an established church.

Around £115 million is raised by congregations every year, on top of everything else, to maintain our parish churches. The tireless voluntary effort of the faithful members of the Church of England is not always adequately recognised as a massive contribution to our national heritage. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, even in secular France, every parish church built before 1905 is maintained entirely at the expense of the state. However, as he also pointed out, absolutely rightly, they do not see very much love. As a result, I would not argue for that, but I am conscious that the rising generation of worshipping Anglicans is much less content to take on responsibility for the maintenance of these historic buildings than their parents and grandparents were; they believe that much of what is listed and monitored by the state should be supported by state funds.

If the economic recovery is as bright as we are told, we ought to look again at the prospects for this huge inheritance of glorious medieval buildings. I echo others who say that there are ways in which we might be able to target some of the most testing and hidden parts of our buildings, such as roof repairs, where a

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grant scheme would be really useful. I would be very grateful for the Minister’s comments on future funding in what I believe to be a pending crisis. Even though our church buildings are in such fine condition now, I am not sure what the future holds for 20 or more years’ time.

People love churches: even excluding worshippers, they visit them in droves. Some 31 million people will visit our cathedrals and churches this year. That is worth about £350 million to the tourism industry, but these iconic buildings are often ignored or marginalised in many tourism strategies and cultural plans. Often that is down to a failure of imagination and perhaps a default secularist mindset.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, mentioned bats. Anne Sloman, the chair of the Church Buildings Council, Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, and I, with others, have had lots of ministerial meetings, and a great deal of work has been done with Natural England and Defra. There are positive developments, but it is always odd to me that our parish churches seem to be treated much more as barns than as houses. They are places where people gather to worship and to eat—not just the sacrament of holy communion but more socially as well, although I doubt any other eating place would be allowed to be so unhygienic.

In my remaining time I will concentrate on community engagement. We use the same word—church—for the people as well as the building, of course. I remember some years ago at a conference a bishop saying, “We must put buildings before people”. I could feel the hackles rising all around. But what he meant was that we should present our buildings to people, to place them at the disposal of the community, to do many of the things the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, spoke about—to put them in front of people.

Nowadays I spend a great deal of time, even in a diocese with a host of medieval buildings, dedicating extensions and adaptations to ancient churches to make them usable community buildings—often reversing some of the things that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke about: removing the pews and returning the nave to those community purposes that he spoke about. One of our churches is turned weekly into a cinema. In another of our churches, the nave is used as a school hall and gymnasium for a school nearby that is on such a restricted site that it does not have the space to do these things. That is precisely what a medieval church is meant to be and do, and we are discovering all sorts of possibilities. I could take noble Lords to churches with shops in them or which host farmers’ markets; there are a few with post offices, but that has proved more difficult to achieve than we expected.

Of course, it is in our churches that people gain the inspiration to serve the community around them. I think of two Christian magistrates, two women from Norwich—one Anglican, one free church—who almost 20 years ago formed a small charity to offer help, advice, support and friendship to sex workers in the city. They began by making a vestry in one of our churches an extremely comfortable drop-in centre, with voluntary and paid staff. The Magdalene Group

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is now well respected and widely admired for its work with sex workers and is consulted internationally for what it has done. All that would not happen if the church was not people as well as buildings—people who care for one another and have entrepreneurial spirit.

It is well known now that there are many food banks in our churches. That is true with us, too. But it is less well known how often the church has reached out to those with drug and alcohol problems or how many of our churches offer debt advice services, bereavement care and a host of other activities.

On Sunday week I will be on a visitation to one of our council estate parishes in Norwich. It is a modern church, not a medieval one. As well as visiting the morning congregation, in the afternoon I will visit a Tamil language congregation given hospitality by the local parish. That congregation has grown and integrated exceptionally well. The ethnic diversity of our urban parishes is nowadays a cause for celebration and I am proud of the way in which so many of our churches welcome the stranger and engage with the migrant worker as well as those permanently in our country. The English parish church is now typically multi-ethnic in urban areas, and increasingly so in our market towns and even our villages.

Last Sunday I was in a small Norfolk village called Bergh Apton. It is a dispersed community. It has only about 300 people. Over the past three weekends more than 60 local people, including some from nearby settlements, formed the cast of a four-act modern mystery play, “The Legend of the Rood”. It was written by a Norfolk storyteller. It was full of humour and local references. It was the story of salvation with a contemporary twist. Pharaoh looked rather like Boris Johnson. Moses was based on “Citizen Smith”, who sought the liberation of the people of Tooting which he wanted to be the promised land. I had a part. I was cast as God—typecast, I suppose. It was an extraordinary cultural event, set in and around the parish church, drawing the community together: creative, empowering, spiritual, human, educational and entertaining. It was the English parish church doing its job. Similar stories can be told everywhere.

We hear much in the media about declining congregations and the church in conflict. That narrative is much too easily accepted and fails to recognise just how fertile and creative is the English parish church. Churches are as engaged with their communities as ever, and I thank God for that.

1.50 pm

Baroness Wilcox (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack very much for giving the House the chance to debate the importance of the English parish church. I am an oblate of the Anglican Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage. I go home at weekends to my village and my church of St Just in Roseland. When I am in London for the rest of the week I can worship at St Peter’s Square, so I am used to a fair variety of Anglican worship.

Today, I am here to speak as the chairman of the Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches in the diocese of London. From this position, I can

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reliably inform noble Lords that in the diocese of London bats are our friends because they do not, largely, like our church buildings and steer clear of them. I will also explain a little further about the importance of the English parish church in an urban, metropolitan context.

The diocese of London consists of 480 parish churches, each with its own defined parochial area. The diocese covers London north of the Thames from the M25 in the west as far as the River Lee in the east, including the heart of the East End, the City, the West End, Metroland and beyond. The rest of greater London is shared between the dioceses of Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford. I need hardly remind noble Lords of the great diversity and stark contrasts to be found in these places, from the hardest pressed urban deprivation to the richest square mile in the world, with every inch of this area having its own parish church—whether it wants to use it or not. The best English parish churches do not conform to any defined standard imposed from above. They find their place among their local community and grow out of it, imaginatively tailoring their activities to the needs of their locality.

My role in the diocese of London is to chair a learned body called the diocesan advisory committee, or DAC. DACs have been around since the 1920s and have a very specific remit in preserving, enhancing and promoting the importance of English parish churches. I count among my predecessors Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, Member of Parliament for Keighley and founder of the Friends of Friendless Churches, and Sir John Betjeman, already lyrically referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and whose writing on churches is among his most enduring.

Each of the 42 dioceses of the Church of England is required by law to have a DAC and the purposes and workings of each of those committees are equally clearly defined in legislation. The DAC provides advice on all aspects of managing church buildings. In London we see around 300 cases every year, from major extensions and restorations to minor re-orderings and making lavatories accessible. In this way the diocesan advisory committee is a key guardian of English parish churches, protecting their importance for future generations.

As chairman I see two main branches to this. I am sure that we are all familiar with the historical, architectural, artistic and academic importance of our church buildings, each of them a record in stone of the people who built them and the generations who have worshipped there since; witness to the formative events of our country, nationally, regionally and parochially. This importance is duly acknowledged by Her Majesty’s Government: 45% of all grade 1 listed buildings are Church of England parish churches. Following changes to VAT rules in 2012, the Government acknowledged that more prosaically by generously providing funding to ensure that the impact on historic church buildings was minimised.

What can sometimes be forgotten is that that rich cultural resource is as rich as it is only because the buildings have been used. The use of the buildings is the second branch of importance that I oversee. Our churches have been chopped, changed, extended and reduced, with every phase adding its piquancy to the

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cultural soup. In being awed by the splendour of these buildings, we must not be lured into misguided preservationism, which will silence our generation to the ears of the future. Church buildings must be permitted to change to meet the needs of the present. That, in turn, will give them a sustainable future.

Balancing between those two potentially competing forces—the accident and the substance of churches, if one wishes to be philosophical about it—is the challenge that greets every new DAC chairman, such as me. The governing legislation enjoins us to,

“have due regard to the role of the church as a local centre of worship and mission”,

not only to ensure that the building is well fitted to its congregation but that the very act of making it so may become a new chapter in the rich history of that building.

One thing that is changing is the way in which church buildings are used. Other speakers have referred to this. Long gone are the days when it was frowned on to clap in church—I remember when you could not clap in church—and in many cases, church doors were shut during the week. The activities of parish churches in London now encompass much more than worship alone. They include running 150 schools, educating 53,500 children from all faiths and backgrounds and administering more than 1,000 projects of social transformation, impacting on the lives of more than 200,000 people annually. All that work is ably supported by more than 10,000 volunteers.

Many of those projects require transformation of the church building and, consequently, the advice of my committee. In recent years, the DAC has seen proposals for post offices, doctors’ surgeries, free schools, nursery schools, a gym, several night shelters, cafes, counselling services and innumerable charitable activities meeting local need. That is not on a small scale. Taking night shelters as an example, over the winter of 2012-13, 280 churches mobilised 5,200 volunteers across every denomination. There were church night shelter schemes in 23 boroughs, offering shelter and hospitality for more than 1,300 people.

The diocese of London has given central recognition to those new developments in the life of the church in London through an ambitious programme entitled Capital Vision 2020. The belief behind Capital Vision is that London’s churches should not be static museums, nor should they be bland community resources. Rather, they should have the confidence to be churches: outward looking and inward welcoming. Capital Vision aims to find the best examples of thriving, open, community-focused churches in London, and to teach their lessons to others that may be struggling.

I like to think that I see a lot of the importance of the English parish church in the work that I do for the diocese of London. London’s churches are as varied and colourful as London's communities. They are places where differing strands come together, both temporal and eternal; places of history and beauty; places of celebration and of mourning; places of splendid ceremony and of ministering to the poor.

Churches are also places where international visitors of all faiths and none can connect with God, yet also places which stand at the heart of their local communities, seeking to connect with people’s hopes and needs.

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Through being an open presence in the midst of our city, our church buildings will bear a welcoming witness to the Christian faith to all who enter them.

In an era when, nationally, fewer of our citizens attend church for worship, more than ever before are visiting churches for cultural, community, educational and altruistic purposes. In this way the English parish church will, I believe, continue to be the beating heart of its local community and one of the key defining features of English society in the 21st century.

2 pm

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, this weekend I am going to bake some scones—probably fruit scones. I am then going to bring them in to St John’s church in Neville’s Cross in Durham, of which I am a member, to serve to the people of Durham. On Sunday we are having our annual gathering in the field behind our church, when the neighbours collect and people come from across the city. Once again I am in charge of the tea tent—or, to be more precise, the tea and coffee bit of the scout hut. I have to confess that my scones are not very good, at least not by the competitive baking standards of the Church of England. However, as the tea monitor, when I looked down the list showing me the promised baked goods, I found all kinds being offered—rock cakes, flapjacks and sponge cakes, but no scones. I normally make a chocolate cake. However, I am also aware that somewhere there is a piece of canon law in the Church of England requiring that if 50 or more Anglicans gather outside in public then they must be given scones with their tea—so it was Sherlock to the rescue.

So far, so Barbara Pym. But what in fact is going on next Sunday is not a church fête but what we call our EcoFest. About seven years ago we gathered for our regular church parish weekend away in Whitby and two members of our congregation challenged our church to think about what we were doing about the environment. We discussed it a lot that weekend and made a number of changes to our own homes and to our church, including putting solar panels on the roof, but we also began to think about what we should do for the city. As a result, we now have an annual gathering in which we bring together people from across the city who are interested in the subject.

The result is a huge mix of campaign groups, green campaigners, alternative energy providers, people who do vegetable boxes, beekeepers, fair trade stalls, bicycle repair workshops and a car-sharing club. There is also a toy swap-shop for the kids so that you can swap the toys you are bored with for those that you have yet to get bored with. The Durham Foodbank will be there because many of our church members are involved in running it. At the end, our rector, Barney Huish, will lead us all in beer and hymns accompanied by a brass band, this being the north-east. A special addition this year will be hustings so that the local political parties can come along and talk to us. When we first did this we were amazed to find that many of the people and groups who are interested in the same subject did not know each other. They met for the first time when they came to our EcoFest, in the little field behind our little church.

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I am not going to talk about the wonderful buildings of the Church of England—partly because although my church has much to commend it, having been set up as a mission church at the end of the 19th century by our mother church, which is 800 years old, its charms have yet to trouble greatly either the bat community or English Heritage. I want to talk instead about what happens inside it.

I have been a regular attendee at just three churches, having acquired the churchgoing habit rather late in middle age. The first one that I went to was very different. It was St Mary’s Islington, which is famous for many things. My noble friend Lord Griffiths might be familiar with it because it is notorious for having ejected Charles Wesley at least once from its premises. The church is at the heart of Islington, a borough which is polarised between conspicuous wealth and mostly hidden but profound deprivation. It is a neighbourhood of incredible diversity but one in which people live parallel lives. Their thoughtful and very impressive current vicar, Simon Harvey, put it like this:

“The people who share the 43 bus share little else. Parochial ministry in this context is about offering opportunities for encounter, understanding and fostering commitment to a common good, as well as worshipping God”.

They do indeed pursue the common good.

The facilities at St Mary’s are used by 2,000 people a week, meeting in more than 100 groups that range from 12-step drug recovery programmes through to a stroke club, a project on childhood obesity and an annual “Soul in the City” community festival that serves thousands of people. They have been working to keep the church open every day, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, described, so that people who work and play in Islington today can find this space of sanctuary, as people have done on the same site for the past thousand years. The church also runs an open youth club, which I chaired for a bit while I was there—although that is now being done much more ably—as well as a preschool, both of which bring together council funding with church time and investment.

My church when I am in Westminster is St Martin-in-the-Fields. Many noble Lords will know that church well. They may well have been to concerts there; the church has one of the foremost chamber ensembles. Dick Sheppard, the vicar of St Martin’s during the First World War, used the church to give refuge to soldiers on their way to France. He saw it as what he called “the church of the ever open door”, and its doors have remained open ever since. It offers ministry to homeless people both directly and through the Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which cares for around 7,500 individuals each year. St Martin’s was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and the founding of many charitable and campaigning bodies, including Amnesty International, Shelter and the Big Issue. It is an inclusive, welcoming church to this day, a place where people of different faiths regularly pray together.

These three churches, united only by the rather random fact that I have had the privilege to worship at them, show me some really important things about the English parish church. First, English parish churches are places of meeting, gathering and connection. The theologian Luke Bretherton talks of the early church

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as having been what he calls a third space. In those days there were two clear spaces: the public space, the polis, and the household, the oikos. The church, the ekklesia, was a third space, and a very unusual one where men and women, Greek and Roman, slave and free all mixed together, which simply would not have happened elsewhere. The first time that I walked into St Mary Islington, I realised that this was the one place in Islington where I had seen such a huge variety of people gathered together under one roof. The first time that I attended morning prayer at St Martin-in-the-Fields and heard the sounds of people who had spent the night all across the streets of London coming inside the church as we prayed at the centre of it, I realised how rarely our lives intersect in a great city like this—but they do in church.

Secondly, like many church and other faith groups, these English parish churches are doing so much for their local communities—in fact, they are focusing lots of their time and money on those who are outside the church. As well as all the events that so many noble Lords have described, we all know of the unsung heroes, those who visit the sick and the housebound, who volunteer in prisons and food banks and who run holiday clubs for local children and lunch clubs for older people.

Thirdly, without any disrespect to my nonconformist friends, both noble and otherwise, there is something unique about the established church. On a practical level, it is a body whose churches are maintained from its own resources, as we have heard, yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich have pointed out, is by definition open to anyone who lives within its boundaries.

I was chatting this week to Father Richard Carter, the inspiring associate vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He described having received a call to tell him that someone in his parish was dying, so of course he immediately went to the hospital to be with them. When the person had died, he went to visit the family more than once, organised and conducted the funeral and went to the crematorium. The point is that he would, and does, do this for anyone who lives in his parish boundaries, whether or not they or their family have ever set foot in church, and so do vicars up and down the country.

As we know, any English person can be baptised or married and have their funeral in their parish church. We often joke about the “hatch, match and dispatch” role of the church but these things really matter; they are the crucial life stages, the rites of passage that secular society increasingly does very badly, especially the first and the last of those. This is a huge challenge for a cash-strapped Church of England but it is very important, and I am proud that so many churches work hard to maintain it.

The interesting thing is that that same priest used to serve in the Solomon Islands. He described an occasion on which charities had gathered there in the wake of a crisis to ask the local people how they wanted the aid money they had brought to be spent. The response was pretty surprising: people said that they wanted the money to go to their local churches. The reason was that the local church knew the community intimately

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and, literally, knew the lie of the land; it understood the needs and challenges facing the local people. This priest, Richard, and his fellow clergy minister with the same understanding and care to their new congregations here in the centre of London, with all their diversity.

One of the most unusual things that I find about the English parish church is that it spans a huge range of theological views, often indeed in the same church. The Prime Minister talked recently of a,

“perceived wooliness when it comes to belief”,

on the part of the Church of England. Actually, I think it is slightly more complicated than that. When I first started going to a Church of England church, I likewise assumed that its members did not believe things very strongly. I then realised that they actually do—just not in the same things. That is actually really important; it is an aspect of the Church of England that tells us quite a lot about its history.

I heard a well known priest give a talk a few years ago at the Greenbelt Festival about the lessons of the English Civil War. He talked about comparing experiences with an American about the same thing. His view was that the overriding lesson for the Americans from their civil war was that it was important to be right and to win, but that what the English learnt from their civil war was that it was very dangerous to fall out over religion.

Actually, that means that there is a very strong historical and pragmatic reason for the theological diversity of the Church of England. But there is also something very impressive about it. The capacity to hold together in one body people who have radically different understandings of the meanings of central beliefs, not to mention religious practices, is hugely significant. It is really countercultural to those of us who live in the world of politics, where the slightest hint of disagreement or division is leapt upon and held up as a sign of weakness. I find it a very attractive characteristic, but in practice a very challenging one, because it means being in fellowship with people with whom I disagree, sometimes profoundly, over things that matter to all of us a great deal. It also means that I am forced continually to come back to working out what it is that matters most. It is also a constant reminder to me of the possibility, however slight, that I may on occasion be wrong. For that alone I am profoundly grateful to each and every English parish church, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us the opportunity to celebrate them today.

2.10 pm

Lord Lloyd-Webber (Con): I agree how phenomenal it is to have an opportunity to debate the English parish church in the House of Lords. I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack. I freely admit that I came to this debate without a prepared speech. I love churches, buildings and architecture, and my greatest thought is of an awayday when I can escape, look at buildings and enjoy them for what they are. I think it is important to bring us back to one point that should be repeated, which is that we must not forget how unique and priceless is our heritage not just in England but all over the British Isles. It is tremendous to be able to discuss it.

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Noble Lords may know that 20 years ago I founded a charity called the Open Churches Trust. Its aim was to keep churches open. About five years ago, I decided that it might be the moment to apply the charity’s resources elsewhere. It was for two reasons. We had the most phenomenal administrator, who I did not feel we would be able to replace, and when we started we found that probably only one or two in five churches were open, but initiatives since we began suggested that our work was, in a way, done.

I came to this debate with an open mind, and I am glad I did not have any prepared thoughts. I completely share the extraordinary views about how churches can be used. That is one of the things that we passionately tried to promote. From the very beginning, we tried to promote the idea that the nave was a place of business. Today, many modern vicars—I am not sure I necessarily approve, but that may be because I am a Tractarian at heart—will bring the church forward in front of the screen. Of course, the purpose of the screen was to keep the nave, where business was done, separate from where the church business was done. Times have moved on. We can see that.

That makes me think how wonderful it would be if we could take that idea further. I was thrilled to hear what was said about using the building for everything from a gymnasium to a school. That was what naves were about. We should have wi-fi in churches because you could have an app, and that app could say, “This is what this building is about”. Also, any wise church will know that by having an app, it has a captive audience because somebody has used the app. Anything we can do to further the use of churches as the centre of the community, and as a place where people feel they want to come to, has to be good.

I shall share with noble Lords my last trip. It is the only thing I have made notes on. I shall not try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and speak about Wales, but a lot of the trip was in Wales and although my name is Lloyd I am not Welsh, and I am afraid my Welsh accent is not good enough to do some of the names. However, I started in Tamworth at—again, my pronunciation of this will be wrong; some noble Lord will correct me on this—St Editha, is it? It is an extraordinary building—ruined by six huge 15-storey blocks of council flats along its reach, but a most wonderful building. Here I found something that I would like to share with your Lordships, because it is very important. It is about the contents of the churches and, in this case, the church windows. I am a great lover of Pre-Raphaelite art, which is now recognised in a way that it was perhaps not 50 or 60 years ago. St Editha has some of the greatest windows you will ever see, by Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown. I was concerned that the Burne-Jones windows are not protected. That makes me feel that there must be a role, which we might discuss in a moment, for the Government in giving a little help to buildings for which it is perhaps beyond their custodians even to appreciate the value of what they have.

I was very impressed by the fact that St Editha has a bookshop, which keeps the church open. It is doing everything it can. I was unable to talk to the vicar

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because St Editha does not have a present incumbent, but many things that it was doing there struck me as pretty extraordinary.

I then moved on to—I cannot say “Shrovesbury”; it is “Shrewsbury”, is it not?

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Lloyd-Webber: I apologise, but I was told in Shrewsbury that it was “Shrewsbury”. There I visited St Mary’s. It is a very interesting place for stained glass, now run by the Churches Conservation Trust. I was very impressed by the fact that they said that they had more visitors to the church than when it was a church—although there was something slightly sterile about it, I have to say. However, they had a break-in and one of their Dutch windows was badly damaged. You begin to think again that we must work out what we are going to do to protect the treasures within these buildings, which people do not necessarily immediately understand. There was an eccentric vicar at St Mary’s in the 19th century, who collected glass from all over the world. It is therefore, of course, a treasure trove of glass that is not specifically English or British.

I contrast that with a church that I went to in Gresford, All Saints’ Church, in Wales. How wonderful it is when you find that a diocese has a dedicated scheme to make churches available and open, as its diocese has. Here comes the mea culpa: a volunteer said, “Would you like to come and see the mural of the mine disaster?”. Now, I freely admit that I am afraid that I did not know that there had been this catastrophe at Gresford. Nor would you realise today, really, that it had been a mining community because the mining has long since ceased. I saw one of the most moving pictures that I have seen outside the Stanley Spencer memorial chapel in Burghclere. It is a much smaller picture than that, a tribute by a local artist to those who had died—of whom I admit I had no idea.

I suddenly thought, “That is what these buildings should be about”. I come back to the idea of an app or something: if there has been such an app, would it not have been wonderful if somebody like myself had actually known about it? Now I have come away with something that I have learnt, and that is entirely due to the volunteer who showed me around.

If there is any one thing that I would suggest to the Government, it is only a thought but it might work: through the National Heritage Memorial Fund something could be created that draws attention to the works of art in buildings and churches, and ensures that they are somehow protected. It may well be beyond the resources of many churches to do that. A simple thing like protecting the glass of the church in Tamworth could save a Burne-Jones window of incredible importance. Goodness, a Burne-Jones watercolour sold for £15 million. What is that glass worth? Who is looking after it? Who realises what it is?

Finally, I saw four kids playing around outside in the rather empty market square in Tamworth. They were following me around, and I said, “Do you know that that window in your church is by Burne-Jones?”. While they thought I was terminally mad, or on some strange thing, I managed to say, “Why don’t you come

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in and have a look?”. Their reaction when they saw something in their own town which they had not even dreamt of seeing makes me feel that we must fight passionately for the future of our parish churches.

2.20 pm

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow my composing colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber. I agree wholeheartedly with everything he said, especially about protecting works of art. One encouraging little point is that tomorrow morning I will be at King’s College, Cambridge, with Stephen Cleobury and a couple of hundred local children, recording a small piece only for an app. The whole purpose is that when the Tour de France starts in Cambridge, a series of pieces will have been created with local institutions and people will go round Cambridge listening to the app that is relevant to that particular place. So that was a prophetic idea from the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber.

We heard about bats. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for instigating this debate, and in particular for focusing on bats. I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that we need not worry about them. My experience in the country in mid-Wales is that they are a real problem, and I will be very interested to hear what the Minister thinks might be done to tackle the problem of bats in Wimbledon and elsewhere.

An extraordinary amount of wonderful art has been created for English churches, and English parish churches. I think, for example, of an amazing man, Walter Hussey, who was dean of St Matthew’s in Northampton. He commissioned Britten, Henry Moore, John Piper, Gerald Finzi, Marc Chagall, and even one Lennox Berkeley. On moving to Chichester he commissioned Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”. That was a man with great vision. Sometimes, of course, that takes money, but it is amazing what can be done when local people are brought together and raise funds, and composers and artists will do things for the love of the area they live in.

One thinks of festivals and how churches have been important to them, such as Aldeburgh and its parish church, where Britten and Pears are buried. There are performances there every year and in Blythburgh and Orford—stunning East Anglian buildings. Moving to Norfolk, there are wonderful churches such as that of Cley next the Sea. Just down the road is Stiffkey. Noble Lords will all remember what happened to the rector of Stiffkey, Harold Davidson. Unfortunately, he was defrocked for consorting with ladies who were, you might say, already defrocked. He then decided to raise money by exhibiting himself in a barrel, and finally by getting into a cage with lions. The unfortunate Harold Davidson met his end being eaten by the lions. That is rather an unusual story, and fortunately not typical of most of the parish churches we have heard about.

There is something terribly important about creativity and religion, whether you have great faith or are an atheist. Hearing a marvellous piece of music or even just local children creating sound has an extraordinary,

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transcending quality. Some of the people I know who are most devoted to English churches are, in fact, atheists. They are passionate about them. We can all get an extraordinary sustenance from the communal coming-together, making music and worshipping—or not worshipping; just savouring that extraordinary calm that you get in an English parish church.

At Cheltenham we had, for concert venues at the festival, Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, but perhaps I remember even more fondly the concerts in Wynchcombe and the local surrounding area, where local people came. It is this thing of outreach—bringing the local parishioners in. Funnily enough, even those of us who have perhaps strayed from the faith in some ways go back to our local churches to be baptised and married and to bury our dead. It is a fulcrum—a lever on which everything turns. What is so extraordinary in this country, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, is that we have so many fantastically beautiful buildings. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that we cannot put everything into mothballs, and we may have to concentrate on the greatest. Let us be realistic. But it is vital that we precisely do that.

We are privileged in this country; we can go for a drive somewhere and look up in a book, like the one by Simon Jenkins, a wonderful church to sit in, be with ourselves and think of God, if that is what we want to do, or our place in society or in humanity. That is a staggering privilege, and we must protect it at all costs.

2.26 pm

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, I shall speak briefly in the gap, first to say how grateful we should all be to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for introducing this debate, which has turned out to be extraordinarily entertaining and enlightening, and in my case very reassuring.

I shall take a few minutes to use my parish church to exemplify some of the points that have come up. I speak from the position of being that atheist to whom the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has just referred, but I am also a trustee of the parish church in Thaxted, in Uttlesford, in north-west Essex. It will be known to those who are connoisseurs of the English parish church, because it is one of the finest; it has four stars in Simon Jenkins’ book. It is also huge. It has a massive nave, and in mentioning that I think of the uses which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, and others have reminded us that naves of churches have been put to in the past and should be again. Thaxted parish church gives the community a wonderful opportunity to use the nave in a wide variety of ways.

Thaxted is also the home of a very well known and widely respected music festival, founded by Gustav Holst, who lived in Thaxted for a number of years. Indeed, one of the great tunes from “The Planets” was subsequently named for Thaxted. The church has in it one of the only two surviving, untampered-with Lincoln organs, built by Henry Lincoln. The other is in Buckingham Palace. The parish of Thaxted managed to raise well over £300,000 from various sources to have the organ restored, and it is just about to be recommissioned. It will be a great resource for the parish and for musicologists throughout the country.

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It also has some wonderful medieval glass, which needs to be preserved, just as the Burne-Joneses do, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, referred.

The church has an extraordinary history of Christian socialism, which goes back to the parish priest in the early part of the 20th century, Conrad Noel, who believed in a very active Christianity. That came from a deep socialist conviction, which he turned into reality. In fact, for one brief moment there were riots in Thaxted because he flew the red flag in the church.

The church is also the source of one of the greatest revivals of the English folk tradition. Every year outside my window, Morris dancers come from all over the UK and beyond to dance in the streets—and we see Thaxted as it used to be, with a market square, rather than a main road running through it. All this points to the fact that the church is, has always been and must remain a vital community asset. But it is very difficult to allow it to evolve in the way in which many noble Lords have stressed that churches must evolve. It is difficult partly because money is needed to do so, which is always a problem, but also because, I am sorry to say, there is an ageing group of people, of whom I am one, who are prepared to give their time and energy to get some of the work done that is needed and to raise funds for that.

I have one request to make to the Minister. It is to do with the fact that Thaxted, an extremely beautiful medieval town, is now the focus of a great deal of rather predatory development interest on the part of private developers. Some of that predatory activity will be fought off by a community that is not too keen on it, but some of it will be successful. Does the Minister consider that it is important and necessary for developers who wish to develop places such as Thaxted—and there are many of them all over the country—to realise that the church is a critical part of creating a strong community and a focus for a community that is growing through that development, and that they should therefore be not only encouraged but required to contribute to the church’s capacity to evolve its buildings, to create new amenities and to allow the community to make better use of some of these wonderful spaces?

That is all I have time to say, but I hope the Minister will take it seriously.

2.31 pm

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, I, too, wish to speak in the gap. I welcome this debate although I am afraid that I missed the opportunity to put my name down to speak in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has a number of strings to his bow. Churches are one of his passions and he is president of the Prayer Book Society, which reflects a particular approach to the Church of England, of which I am a member. That leads me to my first point, which concerns the endless paradoxes embodied in English parish churches. I think it is part of the English tradition of tolerance that we can believe what we like, although I am sure that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury would not put it quite that way. However, he made a very interesting

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remark in a previous debate when he said that the Church of England is everywhere. Indeed, people connected with the Church of England are involved with food banks and work on the ground everywhere. The Church of England knows more than any other organisation in the country about what is happening on the ground. It is, of course, concerned with theology, doctrine and fundamental belief but it is also defined by its church buildings.

This leads me to the many interesting points touched on by noble Lords who hold eminent positions in the world of theology—notably my noble friend Lord Griffiths and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. Somebody touched on the church and state and the establishment and the English way of doing things. In France, the Roman Catholic tradition does not allow that space. It creates a type of socialism on the opposite side which is anti-clerical. We have never had that tradition. We believe in fuzziness.

I invited a former Archbishop of Canterbury to address the TUC in Brighton a couple of decades ago. I am sure that some people in the Church of England would be horrified at the prospect of not having the cutting-edge doctrine that they would like to see. We are talking at cross purposes. Just as in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, you have to have people who are clear about the doctrine, and then, at the other end of the scale from one to 10, you have to have people who do not care very much at all about the doctrine. That is the nature of the beast. It is not like the Roman Catholic Church, which in some respects has more difficulty than we have in the Church of England with the theory of evolution. The contrast between the two non-conformist speakers as regards God and mammon was interesting. I need more time to think about tail and the dog, the baby and the bathwater, and so on.

A friend of mine at the TUC, who was known to be an atheist or agnostic, died. We were a bit surprised that she had a Church of England funeral. There was the vicar and the coffin, and about 50 of us attended. Before the service started, the vicar read out a letter from Miss Nicholson, sent just before she died. It said: “Dear vicar, I am an atheist—perhaps an agnostic—but under the Act of 1551 I am entitled to this funeral and want you to carry it out”. The “births, marriages and deaths” idea is what keeps a lot of people together, even people who do not think that they are members of the Church of England. There is a huge tapestry and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, tabled this debate.

2.36 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his success in securing this debate. It is, as he said, a counterpoint to a debate he secured a short time ago about cathedrals. Perhaps there is a rolling sequence here—first, cathedrals; then churches. Now what? What is his next trick? I suggest that if the noble Lord is in any doubt about what he might raise, perhaps it might be something that appeals to a slightly broader audience than even today’s—rural cinemas, for example. I am worried about them and perhaps we may get together on that one.

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More generally, it is always a comfort when the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is in his place. I feel happier in the House of Lords when I see him sitting opposite, with his avuncular style and ability to anticipate the trends and fashions of the day. I am a little surprised that he is not sporting his MCC tie, today of all days—given the test match taking place. That is a bit of a blot on the discussion. However, when he is there the sun will rise. It may not always shine but it certainly rises. Larks will sing, choirs will raise their voices in wonderful places, and all will be right in the world. I do not know why I got into that but it seemed appropriate, given that we are all traipsing down memory lane, recalling churches we have visited and books we have read about them.

I should also say that I live in Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire—a small village of about 100 houses. We have a Norman-Saxon church, St John the Baptist, which, according to the records, was founded in 975. As it says on the website—we have a website—it has been a place of Christian pilgrimage for more than 1,000 years. I recommend it to those who might want to visit, not least because we have a wonderful festival every October for the wall paintings of St Christopher and St Catherine that were uncovered in 1931. It is a place with whitewash and bright vermilion drawings of these extraordinary figures, which reflect faith in a different time but offer continuity, because they are, in some ways, very modern. While I am in local tour mood, I should say—because it was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Griffiths—that the house in which I live was used to film some of the scenes of “The Vicar of Dibley”. I claim no credit because it was before we moved there. Perhaps this is a point for the next debate but Dibley Manor, as it would have been, attracts a lot of visitors who come and gawp at us through our windows—which is a bit surprising sometimes.

That, for me, is context, but it is not really an explanation of what I want to say today. I find myself in a slightly difficult position because, although we have lots of variations on English religious practice, I do not think we have any other of these in the room: I am a Scottish Presbyterian by background and I am married to a Catholic. So I am probably not the best person to respond to all aspects of the debate. Rather than try to dig into the question of faith—I will certainly be turning to fabric later—I thought I would research who else has been talking about faith, in particular about churches. I found two reports from two of our most advanced think tanks, Demos and ResPublica, which have not been mentioned so far and rather surprisingly were not on the list of material that was circulated in the otherwise excellent Library note.

The Demos report is largely authored by Stephen Timms MP, who I think is well known to many people as being very interested in issues of faith. It is quite a recent report which has researched religious activity. Interestingly, it found:

“Religious people in the UK are more likely than non-religious people to volunteer regularly in their local community, to feel a greater sense of belonging to their local community … and to have higher levels of trust in other people and … institutions”.

They are more likely than non-religious people to take “decision-making roles in committees”, and to go into jobs such as being a councillor or a school governor.

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Religious people who feel religion is important to them are also more likely than those who said it was not important,

“to be civically engaged and to give to charity via their places of worship.”

So far so good with my research; I am sure I have lost noble Lords already in my tract. It was interesting that the research also found that those who belonged to religious organisations or felt they belonged to it—this was particularly a UK issue, not so much a European issue, because they did research across Europe as well—were more likely to base themselves on the left side of the political spectrum. They were more likely to “value equality over freedom”, less likely to have a negative association towards living next door to immigrants, but slightly more likely to say those on benefits should have to take a job, rather than be able to refuse. There are lot of mixed messages there; I do not quite think it fits with the standard UKIP pattern, or that of the left of centre. I thought noble Lords would like to know that.

Although religious people might be more likely to volunteer, they are also less likely to have a meaningful interaction with people from backgrounds different from their own. Efforts to encourage greater mixing between people of different backgrounds in pursuit of common goals should be picked up as part of an issue to do with religiosity.

That was the Demos, new-left/centre thinking. I then turn to the report from ResPublica, Holistic Mission. As I am sure noble Lords will be aware, ResPublica describes itself as an “independent, non-partisan think tank”, developing,

“practical solutions to enduring socio-economic … problems”.

It starts with a bit of blast. It says, quite unashamedly,

“Britain needs both new and renewed institutions … We are now in the UK at a point of institutional miscarriage. Both state and market have failed us. The NHS has been implicated in massive scandals of appalling care and resultant coverups. Our banking system has been the province of vested and rent-seeking self-interest. In the UK, social mobility is stagnating and inequalities are both rising and embedding; all of this despite massive expenditure by the state and vast amounts of contracting out to the private sector”.

You know where they are coming from—at least I think you probably do. Phillip Blond is well known for being a bit of a polemicist. My point is that, in the research ResPublica has done—there is a lot more of the type I just mentioned before we get to it—it decided, in looking at the need to,

“create, recover and restore new transformative institutions that can genuinely make a difference to people and their communities”,

that the church can fill this gap. It says,

“the Church has the potential, the experience and the capacity to become one of the foundational enabling and mediating institutions that the country so desperately needs … the Church has a wealth of in-depth and varied experience across most fields and in many areas”.

We have heard a number of those. The areas it mentions range from,

“helping women recover from prostitution, to mental health, to work experience and training to homelessness and drug addiction and prisoner rehabilitation”.

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So the point of the research is that the church is already doing a lot and it wants to do more. But—there is always a “but”— the church has to make itself fit for purpose. The report says:

“If the Church is to fulfil its purpose and its potential, it has substantially to upgrade its internal and external structures. It has to adapt to governmental demands for accountability and standards, while at the same time allowing its localities to innovate and create”.

The Government, too, have to work hard with the church in order to create the opening, the incentive and the encouragement.

My researches leave me somewhat perplexed about what think tanks are doing but I think that there is a theme, which this debate has also picked up. There is a feeling that the church’s enduring mission has relevance today; that the facilities, the people and the resources there could be deployed in a more creative way; and that possibly there are ways in which we could see a new compact or a new arrangement established for developing help and social context.

I want to conclude with a few questions for the Minister, drawn mainly from the documents in the Library report. There is reference to a DCMS Select Committee report which dealt with heritage more generally but also picked up questions about English churches and cathedrals. The first point it makes is that,

“state support for all places of worship through general taxation would not be readily understood by the public and would at present be inappropriate”.

A number of questions have been raised about whether the state should be involved either directly or indirectly in supporting places of worship. This is more generally stated for all places of worship but it would of course include parish churches. Can the Minister update us on what has happened since that recommendation was made?

The second point made is that faith groups have a responsibility for making sure that the buildings they use for their faiths are maintained. Many suggestions are made but one is that parish councils could be approached for support, perhaps showing imagination in how buildings could be used. Obviously parish councils are part of the apparatus of representational democracy, and again I should like the Minister to say whether he feels that there is a role for parish councils in that work.

The third point, which has been picked up by a number of noble Lords, is that, although significant funding is now going into churches, not just directly through English Heritage but through the generous support for repayment of VAT incurred, about a third of the total amount of money required—this is picked up in a number of papers—is not available and has to be raised by the individuals who use these facilities. That seems not only to be a big gap but a gap that will be worryingly larger in future years. Elsewhere in the papers, it is disclosed that the majority of the congregations who currently regularly attend parish churches are ageing and are not being replaced by a younger generation. Therefore, who will be responsible for filling this gap, which is currently about £60 million a year for the maintenance and repair of our churches?

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The Church of England prepared a briefing note for this, and it is interesting that its “asks” were quite targeted. Again, perhaps the noble Lord can respond to its points. I think that some are covered in his briefing notes and he should be able to respond directly. A couple of them have been mentioned already. One is to encourage agencies, such as VisitEngland, to include parish churches in their campaigns and initiatives. That would seem to produce an easy win-win. Church visits are said to be very valuable and the tourism economy is not to be ignored. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that. Providing brown heritage “Historic Church” signs to all rural and out-of-the-way parish churches seems to be another easy win. Again, that would help to signpost people to these wonderful resources and would not be very complicated to arrange.

The church has picked up on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, regarding help to install wi-fi so that the church can reach the 21st century along with others. This, the church says, would assist churches in providing professional services to all who seek them. I think that it was part of the rural broadband initiative, which is administered through the DCMS, and it is something that might be picked up.

Another point raised in the debate is the need for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to pick up on church treasures to make sure that those which are important to us in a more general historic and heritage sense are not lost in some other concerns about church or faith groups. They are important for us all.

Finally, the English Heritage note picked up a couple of points on which I think it would also be useful for the Minister to respond. One point that it makes concerns planning and relates to changes in the demography, to which I have referred, and in church usage—and we have heard about the extraordinary things that can be mounted in churches. However, there are problems with planning in some areas. Will the Minister think about how one might accommodate the flexibility that will be required as we go forward in order to make sure that these spaces are used, and used in a way which is contemporary and appropriate for those who wish to operate within that locality?

A number of points were slightly off piste, as it were, but are important. We need to think about the question of bats. There are two quite different issues: first, the need to make sure that our natural environment is protected; and, secondly, the impact of the bats. The glis glis is another problem. It is local to Little Missenden but is spreading out. It was until recently a protected species and caused tremendous damage. However, now that they are now longer restricted it has been possible to make some progress.

I hope the Minister will be able to respond to the question of how he is going to train the bell ringers who are going to maintain our music in the countryside, as the noble Lord asked us to do.

2.50 pm

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Cormack for bringing this important debate to the House. I join with all noble Lords in paying tribute to his enduring contribution

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in promoting our national heritage. I have a great fondness for my noble friend, not least because I happen to be his Whip and perhaps can exert greater influence over him than others in your Lordships’ House.

This has been a wide-ranging, enlightening and informed debate, as ever. We have talked about bells and budgets, buildings and bats, and hymns and history. This reflects the importance that the parish church has in our society today.

Before I turn to the role of the parish church, on a personal reflection, perhaps I may refer to what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said about how this Government should fully acknowledge what they get back from the Church of England. I, for one, as a Minister of this Government, can certainly qualify that fact because my own primary and formative education was at an establishment called Holy Trinity, which is as Christian as the right reverend Prelate’s attire. So I can certainly lay testament to that issue.

It is right to talk about the importance of the role of faith in society. For example, a Christian has the right to wear a cross at work, and we took steps to allow local authorities to continue to hold prayers at the beginning of meetings, should they wish. As other noble Lords have said, the Prime Minister used his Easter address to speak about the importance of Christianity and Britain’s status as a Christian country. He spoke passionately about being confident and standing up to define the values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility and love—we have heard a great deal about these recently—Christian values that he identified as being shared by people of every faith and, indeed, none: the values of every faith; British values; indeed, the values of humanity.

Turning to the role of the English parish church, as many noble Lords have said, there are few sights that evoke the true Englishness of our great country than that of a parish church. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Cormack reflected upon this in his opening remarks, as did the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber in their contributions. We have been on a journey through England today. I was scribbling notes furiously. As my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber said, it is only when we embark upon our travels domestically and nationally that we realise the real strength of our heritage. This is reflected in our churches across the country.

The Church of England is responsible for 16,000 parish churches, 12,500 of which are listed as being of historic or architectural interest, and the oldest surviving parish church is St Martin’s in Canterbury, which dates back to around 590 AD. No other body has greater responsibility for England’s built heritage. An insight has been provided into rural parish churches, but as my noble friend Lady Wilcox demonstrated, there is great strength in our urban-based churches. That point was also well made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, in her contribution. To quote Dr Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage:

“The parish churches of England are some of the most sparkling jewels in the precious crown that is our historic environment”.

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The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, talked about the importance of our new developments, and used the example of Thaxted parish church. It is right to reflect upon that, and her suggestion is certainly one that I will take back to DCLG. It is important that, when local plans for future developments are drawn up, they are reflective. Indeed, I recall from my years of serving on a planning committee that the word “sensitive” was often used in relation to the local environment. Being sensitive to the local parish church is an important part of that.

My noble friend Lord Cormack said that parish churches are fundamental to the life of communities, particularly in rural areas, but also in our cities. The Government fully acknowledge the essential role they play in our social and cultural life. Church buildings are important cultural venues. ChurchCare estimates that nearly half of the UK’s church buildings are used for arts, music and dance activities. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about Wimbledon, whose name I carry. I am pleased to inform him that St Mary’s church in Wimbledon not only has music of a Christian kind, but also music of an Indian kind. Indeed, the hall is often hired out for festivities held by every faith in the community. That reflects the pivotal role of parish churches in our towns and cities across the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, talked about the diverse uses made of church facilities, while the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, talked about social enterprise. Parish churches have helped to shape our own identity. They remind us of the values of peace, charity, trust, service to others, humanity and social justice. The right reverend Prelate also underlined them. My noble friend Lord Redesdale talked about the vital role played by volunteers. Noble Lords will realise that he is not in his place right now, but he has a very good excuse. He is part of our rowing team and even now he is out on the Thames rowing, I hope, the Lords to victory over the Commons. Along with our colleagues, we wish him well.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Parish churches also offer significant resources: buildings, organisational capacity, skilled volunteers and experience of reaching marginalised and excluded groups. The role of welfare was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mawson. Churches up and down the country have a pivotal role to play, and I shall come to it in a moment. According to the Church Urban Fund figures for 2013, some 54% of Anglican parishes run at least one organised activity to address social needs such as loneliness, homelessness, debt, low income, unemployment and family breakdown. Let us cast our mind back to the recent floods. A great example of this work is reflected in the fact that many parish churches, along with their multi-faith partners, contributed to the response in practical ways through the provision of storage, providing shelter and refreshments, rest for volunteers and workers involved in the emergency operations, as well as acting as clearing houses for offers of accommodation. St John’s church in Surrey opened up a free café in Egham High

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Street for those affected by the floods so that they could access hot food and drink and be given community support. Indeed, many church volunteers worked within communities to distribute sandbags to families who had been affected by flooding.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, talked about the need for churches to change. Although I could give several, I can think of no better example than that of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Algarkirk, in the diocese of Lincoln, and thus in my noble friend’s patch. The church congregation wrote to say that the church had been locked every day except for Sunday worship until the summer of 2012. The church had suffered vandalism, lead theft, and a general deterioration of the building and its interior, as well as an accumulation of clutter in the churchyard. The parish took the decision to open the church, and since then it has welcomed visitors from all over the world. A big clean-up was held and a programme of events and activities established. The church is being used for book swaps as there is no local library. The atmosphere in the church has improved immeasurably and a huge repair and conservation project has been embarked upon. This demonstrates the diversity of the role of the churches, which are recognising that they have a wider role to play.

Several noble Lords raised the issue of church funding, in particular my noble friend Lord Cormack. At present, the Government provide funding to the sector through a number of means, including the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, where a budget of £42 million is guaranteed until 31 March 2016, and which is open to listed places of worship throughout the whole country. The right reverend Prelate asked about other funding. As my noble friend acknowledged, there is also the Heritage Lottery Fund, which makes grant available to places of worship in need of urgent structural repairs, and the £20 million additional funding allocated for cathedrals announced in the 2014 Budget. Importantly, this will ensure that Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals can undertake essential repair works as they play an important role in the First World War commemorations. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also administering the First World War centenary cathedral repairs fund. These all go some way to helping to look after some of our most treasured national heritage. I shall take back the point made by my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber and by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, about the National Heritage Memorial Fund and write to noble Lords as appropriate on that matter.

Turning to bats, I will share a confession with noble Lords. This is one of those issues about which, when I sit down as a Minister for my briefings, I have very limited knowledge. I certainly remember bats of a cricket kind, and my memories of bats in childhood also refer back to Batman and Robin. Being the younger of two brothers, I always ended up playing Robin, but took some consolation from the fact that Robin was often called the Boy Wonder—I leave the rest to your Lordships’ assessment. As for bats specifically, most medieval churches will have bats, and Norfolk churches seem to have particular problems in this respect. In fact, historic buildings, especially churches, play an

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important role in helping to protect the conservation status of native bats. In a changing landscape, churches can represent one of the few remaining constant resources for bats, thus giving them a disproportionate significance for the maintenance of bat populations at a favourable conservation status. If churches wish to undertake works to address this problem, they can call the bat helpline—I am sure noble Lords will rush to it—where advice is given for free on timing and on whether investigation may be required. Under this service, 202 visits were made to churches last year.

I know there were different opinions about bats, but I am also mindful that noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about music in churches, while the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, talked about the role of the church beyond the faith of Christianity. I look back to my Church of England education and remember a hymn:

“All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small …The Lord God made them all”.

Perhaps we can reflect on the conservation of bats in that light.

I am pleased to say that many places of worship may be able to secure funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for conservation or repair works. This could include, on a serious note, bat surveys or mitigation works as part of a wider project. Defra has funded a three-year research project to develop bat deterrents for use in churches and English Heritage is now funding the development of a toolkit for churches based on those research results. This will be available by early 2015.

A central and pivotal role of the church, and indeed of all faith communities, is in social action. The Government fully appreciate that faith communities make a vital contribution to national life, something which has continued for centuries. The church is a primary example of this. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich talked about this, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, in one particular respect. I am sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say that we want to see a few cakes and scones make an appearance this way—we will hold her to that.

The Government want to help develop further effective working relationships between people of different faiths. Across our great country, people from different faiths are working hard not just in countless churches but in mosques, temples, gurdwaras, synagogues and in charities and community groups to address problems and challenges in their local communities. We are doing so because practical co-operation between faith groups is crucial to our society. It is about people from different backgrounds coming together, not just sitting around sharing scones, tea and perhaps samosas but working together for the common good and tackling shared social problems, from improving our green spaces to challenging homelessness, but also to confront and stand firm against the rise of the ugly face of extremism.

We have therefore invested more than £8 million in the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours programme, which is using our country’s celebrated parish system. I pay tribute to the Church of England in this respect. We are putting our money where our mouth is, not

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through a top-down intervention but by using the existing infrastructure of the Church of England parish system to build productive local relationships between people of different faiths in areas of high deprivation. Again, I use the example of the floods, where the Near Neighbours scheme was a great example of communities working together.

Every area in which Near Neighbours works has active parish churches that are seeking the good of these communities. Local vicars are in place to provide support and expertise for local people, including those who are involved with the programme. In addition, through the Together in Service programme launched last year, we are further strengthening social action around the country. We are investing £300,000 in this programme over two years and there are 25 projects currently running.

We also continue to fund the important work of the Inter Faith Network for the UK in linking and encouraging interfaith dialogue across the country. I am pleased to say that there were more than 350 events across the country last year during Inter Faith Week.

The noble Lords, Lord Mawson and Lord Griffiths, talked about churches transforming themselves. We have heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, examples of churches opening their doors, changing their nature, welcoming communities—social action in cities, towns and villages up and down the country, communities coming together through the church at a time when society needs them to do so. Local parish churches, alongside other places of worship and non-faith-based community groups, act as a key point of contact for many local people.

As the nation emerges from this recession, I fully acknowledge that there are still people in need and I can think of no better institution than the parish church to continue working to address poverty as well as enhancing community relations at a local level. I have no doubt that the English parish church will continue to rise to the challenge and do what it is good at doing.

A number of questions were raised. If I have missed any, I will of course write to noble Lords. I always listen to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, with great intensity and attention. In his vibrant contribution he talked about funding. I have already talked about the various funding schemes in place. I hope he is reassured that I will take back his suggestion on the heritage fund. We have also announced, as I mentioned, £20 million for the repair of cathedrals. That is a recent example of the Government listening and supporting the sector. Of course, we are using the English parish system to administer the Near Neighbours programme.

The Christian parish church in England plays a key and pivotal role. It acts as an example to other communities—indeed, to other faiths. I hope and I know it will step up to the challenge in ensuring that it brings its Christian message of hope through its social action, through its architecture and, as my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber suggested, through its acts to build a society based on love and respect, which celebrates our history and our music with an exemplary ethos of service to the community, driven by an unstinting

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desire to serve humanity. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said that the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, guarantees that the sun will rise. Thanks to your Lordships’ contributions, the sun has truly shone on this debate.

3.09 pm

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I am exceptionally grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his extremely generous and wide-ranging response. I hope that he will allow me to come and see him to talk a little more about the bats because it is a very serious problem, particularly in rural areas, that we need to get a grip on and get the balance right.

I thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who spoke. They made telling contributions, many of them passionate and some extremely moving. What united everybody who spoke in this debate is the recognition of the unifying force of the parish church, its evolving place within a changing community and how, all over the country, these buildings provide a focus and a purpose for the communities they serve. I have had the privilege of being a church warden of three different churches—one in a quite large village, one in a small village and St Margaret’s, Westminster—for a total of 35 years. I fully appreciate what we can and should do. We can never completely exploit the infinite possibilities that these great buildings bring to our society.

This has been a useful debate. I said at the beginning that we were going from the great international affairs covered by the G7 Statement to something much more truly parochial. We had contributions from all parts of the House that proved to me that the single Peer who said, “Oh, why do you want a debate about that?”, did not in fact speak for those here today. I thank all noble Lords for taking part and for recognising something that is to me of incalculable importance. I again thank the Minister.

Motion agreed.

Tourism and Hospitality

Motion to Take Note

3.11 pm

Moved by Lord Harrison

To move that this House takes note of the contribution of the tourism and hospitality industries to economic growth in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Lord Harrison (Lab): My Lords, tourism means jobs. That was the title of a pamphlet I wrote as an MEP 20 years ago. Its driving thesis has changed little. If anything, its central point has intensified as unemployment, especially youth unemployment, now stalks a new generation of jobseekers in Britain and across the European Union.

I suggested then that, in the PM’s current favourite expression, politicians “don’t get” tourism. There is a complacent belief that as tourism is a successful industry

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it does not need help when, instead, we should have bold ambition to increase the UK’s market share, currently standing globally at 3.5%. Tourism is a diffuse industry, scattered over many venues, enterprises and activities, and it is assumed that it will look after itself. By contrast, the car industry for instance, which my noble friend Lord Mandelson helped a few years ago, has a higher profile than tourism although it supports many fewer jobs. The view that tourism is a low-skill industry with uninteresting, poorly paid jobs is misguided. The indolent attitude that no one goes to university to study tourism—and that if they do it is to Oxford Brookes rather than Oxford University—is the kind of a cultural snobbism that ill behoves us in the 21st century.

I have elsewhere debated the very real contribution that the UK’s arts and culture make to tourism but why, oh why, do we leave the tourism and hospitality industries to recline, repine and decline in DCMS, which does not even have the grace to reflect tourism’s concerns in its name? My first question to the Minister is: did his brief come solely from DCMS or did he consult widely with BIS, the Treasury and the numerous other departments which have a fat finger in the ever-growing pie of the tourism and hospitality industries? Will the department finally consider including tourism, its biggest industry, in its title? Many of these cobwebbed myths need to be blown away. I hope that this afternoon’s debate will provide an exhalation and an exhortation, because tourism indeed means jobs.

The UK tourism industry employs 3.1 million people. The sector is Britain’s third-largest employer, sustaining one in 10 jobs. It is Britain’s fastest-growing sector. One in three of all new jobs comes from tourism. It supports a quarter of a million businesses. Most are small businesses—indeed, many are microbusinesses. Seven out of 10 of them employ fewer than 10 employees. Disappointingly, the Government’s otherwise welcome Bill on small businesses fails to acknowledge the particular potential of tourism’s small firms. The Government might have had the wit and imagination to introduce a tourism Bill instead of sending us in this House on ever-extended holidays.

It is no surprise to learn that it was the 1964 Labour Government who pioneered the first tourism Act. Will the Government do anything specifically to help tourism in the small businesses Bill? Will the Minister be so bold as to introduce, 50 years on, a new tourism Bill to help the industry? The tourism and hospitality industries employ one in two part-timers, mainly women, 50% more young people under 30 than other industries, and significantly more employees from minority communities—all groups suffering from this Government’s careless decision to contract the economy.

What should be in any new tourism and hospitality Bill? First, VAT. The 2013 study by the World Economic Forum on international competitiveness shows that the United Kingdom now ranks 138th out of 140 countries on price competitiveness. The chief culprits are air passenger duty and VAT. We charge the full 20% VAT on accommodation, where the average charge of our competitors throughout the European Union is half that. We apply a full rate on restaurant meals and on admissions to cultural attractions and amusement parks.

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I am not amused—especially given that research done by Deloitte has shown that reducing VAT on those items to 5% would boost GDP by £4 billion per annum, create 80,000 new jobs over three years and deliver an extra £2.6 billion to the Exchequer over the next decade.

Why are Her Majesty's Government so deaf to the cost of living of tourists in the United Kingdom when a change in VAT would bring the returns that I have outlined using the Treasury’s computable general equilibrium model? Do the Government “get” that inward tourism should be understood as part of our export drive? Our faltering export drive badly needs help from the tourism industry. Why do the Government hesitate to pluck the low-hanging fruit of tourism and its offer of jobs?

The self-inflicted folly of air passenger duty means that a visiting family of four from China or India, flying economy class, are supercharged coming into this country by £340 as of April this year. Research by PwC has shown that abolishing APD would boost the UK’s GDP by 0.5% in the first year alone, create 60,000 jobs and generate a further £500 million of revenue from other consequential and related taxation. The recent decision to eliminate bands C and D of APD is a welcome but small relief to the industry. If the Government refuse to cancel air passenger duty, would they at least look at removing it for children under 16—the effect of which would be to encourage family travel into the UK? I repeat: why are this Government so reluctant to help inbound tourists and families with their cost of living?

Others will doubtless comment today on the Prime Minister’s lack of concern over the availability of UK passports for holidaymakers leaving these shores. However, this brings me to the vexed question that I wanted to ask about visas. A UK short-stay visa costs £83 compared to £50 for a Schengen visa, which permits visitors access to some 25 European Union or EEA countries—to their tourism industries’ complete and distinct competitive advantage. Visitors from visa-requiring nations account for some 10% of all the 3.2 million visitors to the UK annually and generate some £4 billion in revenue, due to their visitor spend being double the average. To give a positive example, since the 2009 decision to give Taiwanese visitors visa-free entry into the United Kingdom, their spend has grown by 62% from a 43% growth in their numbers. By contrast, visa requirements imposed on South African nationals have cut their numbers by 23%.

Most astonishing of all, the number of Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom has grown by a slender 36,000 out of 42 million outbound Chinese tourists as a whole. Why so few? The Government have made some cautious steps to deal with the difficulties of encouraging Chinese visitors, who are currently required to fill in two visas to visit Europe—one for the UK and the other for Schengen. However, can the Government confirm whether the Home Office will renew the trial of using approved tour operators based in China, which has helped reduce red tape? Can the Minister also address the discrepancy between the international passenger survey figures, which show a 13% increase in Chinese visitors to the UK, and those offered by the

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Home Office for the same period, which show an increase of some 40% in processed visa applications from China?

Can the Minister also assure us that Home Office figures will be released without the current nine-month delay that is, frustratingly, being experienced? We urgently need real-time border admissions data to help the tourism industry prepare and plan. Moreover, what is going wrong in Russia, where a change of service provider for visas has led to poor service, delays and cancelled trips? Can he also elaborate on the welcome decision to set up a tourism council, as announced at the BHA’s recent hospitality summit? What will that do and will it have any funds?

Many years ago, I was the first tourism chair for Cheshire County Council and a deputy chair of the North West Tourist Board. However, in recent years, the ability of local authorities to help their local tourism and hospitality industries has been ruthlessly cut, and the abolition of the RDAs has removed a further £60 million from the agents of regional tourism development. Can the Minister give any idea of how the LEPs are meant to fill this role and how they might develop local marketing campaigns with ever-reducing resources? What are HMG doing to spread the benefits of tourism throughout the nation and regions? As Hull, the capital of culture, has proved—as Liverpool did before it in 2008—tourism can spread its proven benefits of jobs and growth to the regions, thus complementing London.

Given the multifaceted nature of tourism, I would like to hear from the Government about how they plan to nurture changing forms of tourism such as agritourism and ecotourism, or hands-on tourism associated with, say, archaeological digs. As I learnt from the Tourism Society, the tourism trend is that one in 10 of us as grandparents will have responsibility for our grandchildren on holiday. This change needs to be reflected.

Had I but world enough, and time, I would also ask for updates on education and training for the many rewarding jobs and apprenticeships for our young people. I am also interested in the Government’s plans to reinforce minimum wage rates in these industries, and ask whether they will move to the living wage as standard.

I will say a few words about Britain’s engagement with the European Union and about Europe’s challenge to maintain its position as the world’s top visitor destination. Does the Minister accept that tourism and travel are the quintessential single-market industries? The ambition to sweep away the tiresome red tape of 28 countries is worthy ground on which we should participate to make ourselves much more competitive. Does the Minister agree that loose talk of leaving the European Union costs jobs? Given that we already stand outside Schengen and the euro, we simply cannot afford to absent ourselves from the fray of maintaining and sharpening our competitive edge, especially at a time when Lithuania is joining the euro and Lech Walesa in Poland has called for Poland to do the same.

It is partly our attitude to the European Union that will guide our future and the future of the tourism industries, but we will need to make an effort in that

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regard. It will be a folly beyond words if we try to have a referendum on the subject in the year 2017 when we will be assuming the British presidency of the European Union. With that, I conclude.

3.27 pm

The Earl of Caithness (Con): My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for introducing this debate on tourism. I thank him in particular for the way in which he has worded its title because it deals with tourism in the UK and the EU. For those of us who have interests in Scotland, to have a debate in this House where we can include Scotland is getting increasingly rare, and this is a good opportunity to do so.

The noble Lord spent the first part of his speech in what I call a heavyweight approach to tourism. I will conclude mine with such an approach, but I shall start on a more lightweight and parochial note and declare my interests. I am a trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust; I am chief executive and trustee of the Clan Sinclair Trust, which is a heritage charity in the north of Scotland; and I have been and still am heavily involved in ancestral tourism.

I start with the Castle of Mey. The noble Lord said that tourism is all about employment, and of course it is. At the castle we employ 50 staff during the summer months and we have six full-time staff who are employed all year. We have had 250,000 visitors through our doors since we opened in 2002. One has only to think of the knock-on effects that were not there before on B&Bs, hotels and campsites from those visitors to realise their importance. In our shop we use local produce whenever we can, and by employing local people, even part-time, we are keeping money in the local area—in the local pot—which is one of the huge advantages of tourism.

Like other tourist attractions, we are seeking to diversify. We are introducing high-quality expensive stays at the Castle of Mey. This is an area that is hugely important in Britain. We are in an international competitive market and unless we can produce high-quality products that people want to come to, they will go to the rest of the world. We have no divine right that means they will automatically come here.

We are also having an annual exhibition at Mey. This year we, like many others, are commemorating the First World War. That is highly appropriate at Mey. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s brother was killed at Loos in 1915, and she lost two of her cousins. Part of the exhibition is devoted to her family connections with the war.

The Castle of Mey is a five-star visitor attraction. In order to attain that, a mystery visitor comes to the castle unannounced, does his or her report and the stars are awarded. It is nothing to do with the Castle of Mey, but a friend of mine did a mystery visit to Historic Scotland in Inverness. VisitScotland has done very well under the Scottish Government, but it is very much oriented towards the central belt. My friend went into the tourist office in Inverness and asked for visitor attractions north of Inverness. There are two five-star visitor actions in Caithness: the Castle of Mey and Caithness Horizons, but the member of staff

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could not think of any visitor attraction north of Inverness. There is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up to the north coast, and there are lots of visitor attractions on the way, but the member of staff failed miserably. Historic Scotland has kindly given us five stars at Mey, but I would give VisitScotland no stars at all on a local basis. It makes life very much more difficult.

Part of the problem is that tourist attractions and hospitality tend to be on the small scale: 80% of tourism and hospitality businesses employ fewer than 10 people. That makes it very hard to get recognised. It also means that one tends to have poor cash flows. One tends to rely on volunteers and, in an increasingly digital age, that makes it harder to keep up to date. It also makes it hard to fill in the endless funding application forms, which are increasingly difficult to fill in, and puts smaller businesses at a disadvantage.

My research in Northumberland backed my view of that experience in Caithness: we do not have the right infrastructure for tourism on the ground. There is no overall group enthusing and co-ordinating these small businesses and making them fulfil their potential. We have VisitScotland, VisitEngland and local authorities but, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said, politicians do not get tourism. They are not working together, and the present structure is not as good as it should be.

Let me give another example from Scotland. In the Year of Homecoming in 2009 I was involved with the Gathering in Edinburgh. It is true that the company was a private enterprise and lost money and some businesses in Scotland lost a little money. That was very sad, but when you think of the overall effect, the Gathering brought more than £10 million to the Scottish economy. The ROI on public funding was more than 20 to one. It was a tragedy that there was not a way between the private sector, the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council to make certain that local people who lost money were reimbursed because with another homecoming this year, we could have had a bigger and better gathering. The 2009 homecoming brought thousands of the diaspora to Scotland for the first time. We could have done more in a bigger and better way, but we could not get central and local government in Scotland to work together properly with the private sector in a manner that could be trusted and would work well.

My research in Northumberland reveals exactly the same problem. Why is this? Northumberland has a huge amount to offer, with lots of opportunities for future tourism. In 2016, Kirkhale is commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown. If Northumberland got its act together, that could be a wonderful way to bring more tourism, which has declined since the financial crash of 2008 and has not recovered to its previous levels. There is still a lot to be done.

I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister whether the Government think that the present system is working well. If it is not, what can they do to improve it? Or does the Minister think that the Government ought to step back from tourism and say, “Okay, we have one foot in tourism, but the other foot is hanging around outside. Would it not be a good idea to get rid of the

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Minister for Tourism and pass the whole thing over to the private sector with a little bit of funding? Yes, we will pump-prime certain organisations, which will be the umbrella organisations that you are all demanding. This will be the new system, which works, and we, as the Government, will get out of it and let you, the private sector, which knows about business, get on with it rather than being half in and half out”?

I now turn to a more heavyweight and less parochial view of tourism, and follow the lead given by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. It is important that tourism is based on stability and safety. There is little tourism in Crimea and Iraq—but there is a lot of tourism in Europe. We are extremely fortunate that we are part of a union that has been relatively stable, except for the odd occasion, since 1945. That is the basis of a successful tourism industry. We must not jeopardise that.

The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, rightly mentioned the question of visas. If a visitor gets a visa for the Schengen area, they have the right to go to 25 different countries. However, there is a barrier in coming to the UK and we must not forget that that barrier could become much worse on 18 September if the Scots vote for independence. Barriers and borders are completely anathema to tourism. Tourists do not like borders. If we are to have a border across the middle of the mainland of the United Kingdom, it will jeopardise tourism both north and south of that line. Everybody in the north of England should be aware of the consequences of having a border. I saw an extremely good television programme recently about the “middle land” of Britain, and how this community was divided by Hadrian’s Wall once upon a time, and could now be divided again. That would not be good for tourism.

Does my noble friend consider that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s thoughts and recent research on air passenger duty are correct? If air passenger duty produces £2.8 billion per annum for the Government, is that a better way of getting money than getting rid of APD, which PWC says would boost the economy by £16 billion in the first three years? Not only that, it would create 60,000 new jobs in the UK and an additional £500 million in increased revenue from other taxation. Talking about taxation in the round—as a former Treasury Minister I understand that that is hugely important for central government—why have one tax that seems to raise a bit of money, whereas abolishing it could raise a whole lot more? It is less obvious, but that is surely to the benefit of the country, which is what we are talking about.

I also support the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on the question of VAT. It is strange that France and Germany have VAT on tourism at 7%, while ours is at 20%. If you run a small tourist business, that 20% will be very damaging to the cash flow. Fortunately, the trust of which I am a member is a charity, but if it was a pure business—if it was a hotel—that would make a huge difference to its profitability, and to the future of tourism.

Surely we need more people to come to this country, so we need to make it as competitive as possible. Will my noble friend say what the Government’s thoughts are on getting rid of those barriers that both the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and I have raised? I am sure that

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other noble Lords will raise it, too. How will we make the country more attractive, particularly for the high-end visitor? That kind of person will spend a vast amount of money, and he or she needs to be attracted. If that person has to pay more for a visa here, they will not come. Tourism is growth and the economy—let us back it.

3.41 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford (LD): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on securing this debate. He has been a great champion of the industry for many years here and, as he told us, he has had practical experience in Cheshire. If the noble Lord ever thinks about giving up politics, I suggest he would make a wonderful toast-master, as he has the right bearing and a marvellous voice as well.

I had the privilege of introducing the previous tourism debate in the Moses Room in April last year. On many occasions I have said in this House that I believe that tourism is the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other single industry. Just think about it: there are our coastal resorts, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the West Country, Scotland—where it is perhaps equal with whisky, but certainly very important, as we have heard from the noble Earl—our historic towns such as Stratford, York, Chester, and our big cities with increasing tourism industries, obviously not least London itself.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions—ALVA—all of whose 57 members get more than 1 million visitors a year. I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft is in her place and that we will hear from her a little later. She is a very distinguished trustee of the British Museum. Of those 57, most of the royal palaces are members, and we have our great cathedrals—Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s—great museums and national galleries. They are the icons. With the best will in the world, visitors do not come to this country for our hotels or restaurants, although they want good hotels and restaurants. They come because of our heritage. The members of ALVA also include the National Trust, with a magnificent 4 million members, and English Heritage, with wonderful sites such as Stonehenge. I am sure we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, a little later, who was recently such a distinguished chair of English Heritage. We also have as members Warner’s studio tour of the world of Harry Potter, Chester Zoo, the Eden Project and the Churches Conservation Trust, which is apposite to the previous debate, on parish churches. Treasure Houses of England is a member, and we have sister organisations such as the Historic Houses Association. Of course, those appeal much more to the domestic visitor.

The vital message overall is that we need continuous investment in our attractions, with continuous refurbishment and upgrading to maintain and improve the quality of our offering. While quite rightly we endeavour to obtain more charitable funding from individuals and the corporate sector, I suggest that at the end of the day the Government have a major responsibility—certainly for the national museums and galleries that they support.

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Sadly, as has been said, Governments and politicians of all persuasions have not in the past taken tourism seriously. At the last election, there was no mention of tourism in any of the major party manifestos—none at all. That is why the tourist industry has come together in the campaign for tourism to make sure that, in the coming election of 2015, tourism at least gets a mention. We have had meetings with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition, and I am seeing David Laws next week, who is leading on the Lib Dem manifesto. We have meetings with the Deputy First Minister in Scotland and soon, I hope, with the Welsh First Minister, to press the case of tourism.

In recent months, to be fair, there have been some welcome signs that the Government have been getting the message. We have had some improvements in visas—I acknowledge that—and some alleviation on air passenger duty. Of course, last week the new Tourism Council was announced, focusing on employment issues and bringing together BIS, DCMS and the industry. I welcome that council—it is a step in the right direction—but I have some caveats. First, we really need a council that goes much wider and involves many more government departments. The Treasury needs to be involved because of VAT and air passenger duty. Transport needs to be involved because of the infrastructure issue. The Home Office needs to be involved because of visas. Secondly, to succeed, the council needs to be chaired by a senior Minister—a big hitter—not one or more junior Minister. I speak from some experience, having been a junior Minister and having endeavoured to put together just that sort of body more than 25 years ago when I was Tourism Minister.

Thirdly, despite the focus of the council on employment, the industry’s sector skills council, People First, is apparently not represented on the council. Fourthly, also we have no representative from destination management organisations, which deliver tourism at local level. Fifthly, and very importantly, there is no real representation from the SMEs that make up 80% of the tourist industry. I very much welcome the council’s creation but it has to be built up and expanded. I hope that the Minister can respond to some of my individual concerns.

Tourism is a massive generator of new jobs—one-third of the new employment in the past two or three years. It is an industry that has the ability to take on employees at all levels, from the unskilled right the way through to the skilled. I am afraid that there are those who in this country drone on all the time about immigration. Without all those who come from the EEC to work in our tourism and hospitality industries, our hospitality industry would absolutely collapse. This morning, for example, I had breakfast in a small hotel; there were two waitresses, one from Italy and one from Romania. Almost all the staff who come to this country from the EEC are smart and keen and very pleasant. What are the Government doing to encourage our indigenous youth to really participate?

Too few people appreciate the relationship that exists between a service industry such as tourism and manufacturing. They too often denigrate tourism because

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it is a service industry. The reality is that they are complementary. Let us take our aerospace industry, where we have a major position in the world. How much of aerospace manufacture comes from travel and tourism? Or let us take the construction industry in this country, and the very considerable development in recent years of budget hotels. Another example is that of Merlin, one of our very successful entertainment groups, which has a £40 million annual investment programme this year, with developments at Chessington, Alton Towers and Sea Life in Birmingham. We should think also about all the food and drink consumed by domestic and overseas visitors.

When the noble Earl talked about Northumbria, I was reminded of my experience more than 25 years ago, when, as Tourism Minister, I visited the Northumbria Tourist Board, as it was then called. The very impressive chair of that tourist board told me that the only way she could get funding for tourism in Northumbria was to take money from the fire brigades’ budget because at that time tourism was not acknowledged as a serious industry, particularly in the north-east and Northumbria. Thankfully, there has been considerable improvement in that regard.

I conclude by suggesting two things that would give a huge boost to tourism, and at no cost. The first is to revisit the whole issue of double summer time. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, will appreciate this. The extra hours of daylight that would be gained by introducing double summer time would give a huge boost to the tourism industry and benefit sport and road safety as well. Therefore, I hope that we will revisit that issue. My second point has been mentioned. Given tourism’s importance and its potential, for heaven’s sake let us now include it in the title of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That is a long overdue and well deserved measure.

3.51 pm

Baroness Andrews (Lab): I congratulate my noble friend on his remorseless determination to ensure that tourism is at the heart of our economic policy. Whenever he speaks about tourism, he brings to it even greater conviction than when noble Lords spoke in the previous debate. I am always very pleased to participate in debates that he leads. He will not be surprised when I say that I am bound to talk about heritage, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, anticipated. However, I will also talk about Wales and the issues that it faces in relation to tourism; and, indeed, the issues faced by the regions in ensuring that the wealth generated by tourism spreads beyond London.

The whole world had a fireside view of Britain during the Olympics and of the spectacular heritage that we hold in trust. That is really paying off in that at present you can hardly cross the road outside the Palace of Westminster because of the crowds. At a time when the world is becoming so monolithic, not least because of social media, people are desperate to encounter something different. They come to the UK because we are definitely different in the density, quality and diversity of our heritage. As the noble Lord said, it is a question not simply of our great

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monuments but of our market towns, our parish churches, our landscapes and much more. It is about the spirit of place.

We have heard a lot of statistics, but I wish to give a few more. Tourism is expected to grow in the future by 3.8% a year between 2013 and 2018. That is faster than retail and, God knows, we in this country like retail. At the heart of this is what we call in shorthand heritage tourism. Thirty per cent of overseas tourists claim that heritage is the main reason for them visiting the UK. It is stronger than any other single factor. In fact, I was rather surprised to note that 48% of visitors holidaying in the UK visited a castle or historic house. That is more than went to museums, art galleries and theatres. The fact that 43% went to museums and art galleries, and 14% to the theatre, also shows the enormous pulling power of culture and the arts as a whole.

So much of what our visitors come for is, indeed, to do with the spirit of place, as will be appreciated by anyone who has tried to get into Sissinghurst recently to see the glory of the gardens there, the Bloomsbury house at Charleston, the Charleston festival or the Bronte parsonage. These small, very fragile places are full of enthusiasts who have come from across the world to see where their favourite writers, artists and, indeed, scientists lived, which is reflected in the great success of Down House.

Brand UK is about the things we cannot measure, sometimes the things we take for granted. Over the years, we have saved, protected and invested in our heritage. Investment pays off. After 25 years, during which Stonehenge was described, chillingly, as a national disgrace for the state it had fallen into, with dreadful provision for visitors and little interpretation, the situation is transformed thanks to English Heritage. The new visitor centre is open and the landscaping of the monument well on the way to completion. Even though it is not complete, visitor numbers are already running way ahead of budget, which shows the relationship between the quality of the offer and the enthusiasm of the visitor. The lesson here is that we need to take this seriously and invest in the care and protection of heritage. We need to support private owners as well as public monuments. We need to ensure that there is the right amount and type of interpretation to excite, animate and bring visitors back many times.

One area that is ripe for more exposure to visitors is our world heritage sites, of which there are 27 in this country. There is no connecting story because they are very different. They range from Blaenavon, the home of the industrial revolution in south Wales, to the great social experiment of Saltaire, and to Blenheim, which is one of the great houses. They are extraordinary in their beauty and diversity. We should be making more of them, and I hope that VisitBritain will do so.

We can quantify the value of heritage almost to decimal points. The latest survey that the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned from Oxford Economics made it clear that since the last data were collected in 2007, tourism has reached over £14 billion in its contribution to GDP. In 2007 that figure was £12 billion. It also produces more jobs. In 2007 there were 270,000 jobs in heritage; now the figure is 393,000. These are jobs ranging from specialist curatorial staff to the

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fantastic people in the shops and those who serve walnut cake and tea. That is all part of the reason why people keep returning. Then of course there is the huge force of volunteers. We are talking about real skills, real opportunities and real jobs.

The important thing about this is that it does not stop at income coming in. It brings investment that is about sustainable development. It is hardly surprising that other countries are looking at our fabulous National Trust in order to set up their own national trust to take care of their national heritage.

Heritage is also powerful because it is about local economies, which is why getting people out of London and beyond Oxford and Cambridge is vital. On recent heritage open days there were more than 2 million visits to historic properties. Norwich alone, for example, raised £735,000 from those visitors. Considering that we have just come through the worst recession in our history, these are impressive figures.

I am overdosing on statistics because I want to emphasis in the concluding part of my speech the absolute necessity of getting some of this wealth out of London and into other parts of the UK—particularly into Wales, which desperately needs to rebalance its economy and put its enormous assets and skills to work in different ways. It has some of the highest levels of poverty, unemployment and child poverty anywhere in the UK. With those come poor health, poor aspiration and achievement, and cultural and social exclusion. Wales needs new national and local economies, hence the emphasis on apprenticeships and the digital economy, for example. Wales needs every penny that it can get out of tourism, domestic and international. That means investing in its natural, historic and cultural assets. This is only common sense because Wales is a small but smart country. It has everything going for it in terms of tourism, which is already its third most important industry.

The genius of tourism is that it could be Wales-wide. It can be everywhere for everyone. It touches every corner and provides local jobs for local people. This is evident on the ground because wherever you go in Wales you fall over or into a castle, an abbey, a prehistoric site, a magnificent industrial landscape or a fabulous National Trust property. We have the homes of poets, artists and musicians. Brilliantly, Wales is the nation of the book. This year we have the Dylan Thomas festival, which is drawing in lots of visitors, as is the RS Thomas centre in Bangor. So there is no limit to what we can use our cultural assets for. We have coming in Bangor a wonderful new cultural centre called Pontio, which will be an intellectual and cultural centre for north Wales. We also hope, in addition to the three world heritage sites that we have in north Wales, that we will have a fourth in the form of the fantastic slate landscapes of north Wales.

So why am I concerned? We have all these assets, so what is the problem? The fact is that international tourism is simply not doing as well in Wales as it is in other parts of the UK. In Wales, 92% of tourism is domestic; international tourism is only 8%. The problem is that international tourism accounts for 16% of spending. Given the disproportionate benefit it is therefore all the more serious that in the past few years Wales

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has lost a quarter of a million visitors from overseas. It is such a source of concern that the Welsh Affairs Committee is now looking at how Wales can present a more compelling picture of itself to the world. We know that we have a fantastic product; it is just a question of how that information gets out to the rest of the world. If we could only do what the Hay festival has done and go viral. Sadly Hay is over for another year, but it has gone global. It is now held in six or seven centres all over the globe. It is a model of what Wales needs to do. Our national museums are forever taking their collections abroad and welcoming international visitors.

Visit Wales is doing a brilliant job of branding Wales. The problem is that the consensus seems to be that VisitBritain could and needs to do more. It is not difficult to sell London: it sells itself. Wales needs extra help. The evidence is that VisitBritain needs to identify Wales’ appeal and sell it more energetically. The fact is that in the cutthroat competition that marks global tourism it takes a huge and concerted effort to break through into new markets. VisitBritain’s job is surely to help all the constituent parts of the UK to achieve that breakthrough. I hope that role will be reinforced in the course of the imminent triennial review of VisitBritain, and I hope in particular that it will be reflected in new formal key performance indicators and targets. That might help to drive some of that energy from London and into the regions.

It should not be difficult to do that. VisitBritain itself cited recently, in evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee, a survey of European visitors who said that the thing they most wanted to do when they came to Britain was to go on a tour of Welsh castles—more than to go to Buckingham Palace or Anne Hathaway’s house. I am delighted to hear that. However, Wales needs more exposure to generate curiosity and appetite. The NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport in September is a great opportunity to showcase Wales, but we have to ensure that Wales maintains and increases its investment in tourism and the things that people come to see, and in the care and animation of our monuments. It is essential that it promotes museums and collections to throw their doors open wider, and connects the natural history and the historic landscapes. Above all, we need better infrastructure. We need far better local transport in Wales. The loss of some local buses is a very sad story. We certainly need a better hospitality offer.

Can the Minister tell me what VisitBritain is doing to promote Wales specifically, and what future plans it has to ensure that Wales can capitalise on its assets and draw in more of the benefits of overseas tourism? I would be very grateful for anything that he can say on that.

4.03 pm

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, since she talks about an area I wish to pay particular attention to. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has given us this opportunity to raise these matters. The Minister might expect me to talk about music, the arts and their value to tourism. However, he

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has heard me talk on that subject many times. There is not a great deal I can add. What I would like to talk about—this follows on from the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about Hay—is landscape. This also follows on a little bit from our debate on parish churches.

Aspects of life in the United Kingdom—and I deliberately mention the United Kingdom, including Scotland—have been an important part of our heritage: the fact that people can go to churches and concerts and to Hay, and they can walk in the mountains. There is one thing that I am most concerned about, and here I should declare an interest as president of the Offa’s Dyke Association. While I, like everyone else, have concerns about climate change and can see the need for renewable energy, I am worried that dealing with those issues is going to impinge on areas of tourism that we need to protect.

Recently, the Welsh Assembly Government—this affects Shropshire and Herefordshire as well—commissioned a policy study into the potential effects on tourism of wind farms and their associated infrastructure, particularly that for the transmission of energy. I do not want to overstate the case but I am talking about areas where people come to walk. The 2014 study showed quite clearly that the imposition not just of wind farms but of the associated infrastructure—roads have to be widened and pylons have to be built—has an effect on areas where people make repeated visits because of the tranquillity of the landscape. This is particularly applicable to Her Majesty’s Government because, as I said, this will affect not just the Welsh Marches, although that is where the energy will begin, but Shropshire and Herefordshire as the energy is taken across.

As noble Lords know, Knighton appears in my title. The town of Knighton is on the dyke—hence my being the president—and I am particularly concerned with that area, although a lot of the transmission will be north of there. However, even we are faced with a wind farm overlooking Offa’s Dyke and a grade 1 Repton landscape at Stanage Park, identified by Cadw as being of great significance.

I think the Government have begun to recognise that there are very strong feelings among the people who live in these areas and that their feelings should be taken into consideration. My concern is that, if we do not look at what we are doing to this countryside, it will be too late. Things will go through and we will find very important landscapes blighted.

Although farming provides the main form of income in mid-Wales, tourism is incredibly important. People who come regularly to walk the dyke stay at hotels and bedsits in Knighton. If any noble Lords have the energy and the desire, I can thoroughly recommend it. However, the owners of these establishments are all incredibly worried. When this matter was aired, more than 1,000 people wrote to say that they were worried about their livelihood, as opposed to about 300 who wanted wind farms there.

Therefore, I ask the Minister to look at this area in particular—the Welsh Marches and the Welsh landscape. The wind farm that I am talking about began life with

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Herefordshire County Council to avoid bringing in Powys, but in fact there has to be access through Powys. Therefore, it is a cross-border matter and a minefield in planning terms, as I completely recognise. There is a very strong feeling among local people that their views are not being heard, and they are worried about their future in terms of tourism. Therefore, I should be very grateful if the Minister could look at this matter more carefully.

4.10 pm

Baroness Seccombe (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on alerting us to the importance of tourism, in a speech delivered with his usual passion.

My first involvement with tourism was when I was a member of the Heart of England tourist board. Until then, I had always marvelled at the way so many overseas visitors would do Europe in a week and then return home, exhausted and saturated with facts, hardly able to remember the country in which these riches were situated. It was while on the board that I realised what an unrivalled treasure trove of history and culture we enjoyed regionally and nationally. This was during a comparatively early stage of the development of the tourist sector in this country. At that time the challenge was to get visitors to visit not only London but our wonderful towns and countryside beyond. Since that time it has been truly exciting to witness the expansion and development of one of our major industries to visitors from overseas. At the same time, I remain hugely supportive of home tourism and, in particular, opening the eyes of young British people to the wonders around them that are taken for granted.

I wish to concentrate on the joy of seeing the expansion and development of this industry. It is such a joy to see so many people visiting our country. In recent times, it seems that London has become a magnet for tourists from all over the world and is now the most visited city in the world. People, young and old, flock to our magnificent city—a city which, under the excellent leadership of the mayor, deserves great credit for revitalising itself and now presenting itself as the place where everyone wants to be. You have only to be in a taxi, on a bus or on the Tube to be intoxicated by the sense of excitement. There is freshness and brightness all around and an impression of vitality and purpose in a city at ease with itself.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that the Olympics of 2012 were the real trigger. They created an infectious energy and enthusiastic anticipation which spurred us all on to present our country in the very best light. The whole effect was magical and I am sure we all felt enormous pride in what we achieved. I loved every moment of it, particularly the time I spent at the Olympics and the magnificent Paralympics. As a consequence, my family and I are going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. I wish the City of Glasgow every success and I hope that the spin off will result in a legacy which will serve the nation well.

All this activity, as well as many other government initiatives, has contributed to yesterday’s announcement of the employment figures. Tourism is now the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms.

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Two million new jobs have been created in the private sector since 2010, 345,000 being added in the three months to April 2014. This is the biggest quarterly rise since records began in 1971. Simply put, more tourism means more jobs. From January to March this year, overseas residents’ visits are up a staggering 10% and holiday visits are up 19%. It is now estimated that earnings from overseas residents will be up 14% for this year. That is real progress. We all think things can be improved—it will always be thus—but 14% is a great achievement.

Over the years I have come to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in the leafy lanes of Warwickshire and close to the thriving, bustling town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the most visited towns outside London. Wherever you go in the world, however remote, people will always have heard of Stratford. Of course the name is associated with that of William Shakespeare and, for me, there are few events as touching as his annual birthday celebrations, particularly this year, the 450th anniversary of his birth. The sheer number of people who come from all ends of the earth, carrying their country’s banner, all clutching simple bunches of flowers, never ceases to impress me. That special celebration takes place only once a year, but great numbers of people visit on a daily basis, and that requires delicate handling to ensure that inhabitants living in and around Stratford and the welcome visitors are able to enjoy all the amenities that the town has to offer.