Andrew Selous debates involving the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There have been 34 exchanges involving Andrew Selous and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thu 4th March 2021 Oral Answers to Questions 22 interactions (602 words)
Thu 21st January 2021 Oral Answers to Questions 44 interactions (1,139 words)
Thu 26th November 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 47 interactions (1,630 words)
Thu 15th October 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 24 interactions (688 words)
Thu 10th September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 18 interactions (633 words)
Thu 25th June 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 37 interactions (1,211 words)
Thu 11th June 2020 Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Reopening 3 interactions (763 words)
Tue 19th May 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 34 interactions (1,056 words)
Thu 19th March 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 26 interactions (913 words)
Wed 26th February 2020 Environment Bill 3 interactions (57 words)
Thu 6th February 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 34 interactions (938 words)
Mon 28th October 2019 Environment Bill 3 interactions (1 words)
Thu 17th October 2019 The Climate Emergency 3 interactions (44 words)
Wed 1st May 2019 Environment and Climate Change 3 interactions (710 words)
Mon 4th June 2018 Fur Trade (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (46 words)
Tue 22nd May 2018 Transport Emissions: Urban Areas 3 interactions (104 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Sale of Puppies (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (54 words)
Thu 22nd February 2018 Air Quality 3 interactions (86 words)
Mon 24th April 2017 Air Quality Strategy 3 interactions (48 words)
Thu 20th April 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 4 interactions (126 words)
Thu 19th January 2017 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (53 words)
Thu 15th December 2016 Air Quality (Westminster Hall) 5 interactions (1,031 words)
Thu 3rd November 2016 Air Quality 3 interactions (84 words)
Thu 27th March 2014 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (151 words)
Thu 13th February 2014 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (72 words)
Thu 9th January 2014 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (84 words)
Thu 6th December 2012 Oral Answers to Questions 11 interactions (237 words)
Thu 5th July 2012 Oral Answers to Questions 6 interactions (56 words)
Tue 22nd May 2012 Littering and Fly-tipping 10 interactions (1,493 words)
Thu 19th January 2012 Oral Answers to Questions 4 interactions (50 words)
Thu 24th November 2011 Oral Answers to Questions 4 interactions (88 words)
Wed 26th October 2011 Environmental Protection and Green Growth 3 interactions (76 words)
Thu 12th May 2011 Oral Answers to Questions 4 interactions (111 words)
Thu 9th December 2010 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (42 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 4th March 2021

(4 days, 12 hours ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, how much the Church of England administered in grants to churches for the purpose of restoration in the last financial year. (912854)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England has administered £10 million of the Government’s culture recovery funding to 68 churches and cathedrals and about £250,000 in conservation grants. The £300 million additional funding announced yesterday is very welcome, as is the fact that the levelling-up fund specifically includes churches and cathedrals. The national Church does not routinely fund capital works, but it does liaise closely with a wide network of funders who provide support for parish churches and cathedrals.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his answer. St Michael’s church in Fulwell was closed and in a semi-derelict state when a new church was planted there in 2014. Since then, the committed team have been holding Sunday services and serving their community with no formal heating or lighting. In order to restore this listed building to achieve their vision of being community centred, they have raised over £1.5 million, but they need a further £230,000 to make the church functional. What support might the Church Commissioners be able to offer to help plug that gap for St Michael’s?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to learn about the growing congregation and all the good work happening at St Michael’s Fulwell. The commissioners provide strategic development funding to the Church nationally in order to support major change projects that will make a significant difference to mission and financial strength across dioceses. In addition to the culture recovery fund, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has recently launched a new set of funding priorities to support covid-19 recovery and is open to applications now.

Break in Debate

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to increase public transparency of its landholdings. (912857)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Church Commissioners have been working through the process of registering their land holdings with the Land Registry, which can be searched publicly. In addition, on page 81 of the Commissioners’ annual report there is a list of the 20 largest real estate holdings.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When I met the Commissioners, I was told that they did not have comprehensive digital maps of their lands that they could publish. However, a recent report from the Archbishop of Canterbury recommended that the Church map all of its land holdings by using the Good Steward Mapping Tool. I note that its website features digital maps of the Church Commissioners’ lands. In the interests of transparency, will the Commissioner make those maps public?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As part of the work of the Archbishop’s housing commission, the Church has indeed commissioned a draft map of the land holdings of the Commissioners, dioceses and parishes, to improve planning and joined-up working between all parts of the Church. This is work in progress, which is currently being trialled by a number of dioceses.

Break in Debate

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. What representations the Church of England is making to countries where people are persecuted for their faith or belief. (912873)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Church of England has regular meetings with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office about countries where people are persecuted for their faith or belief, so that our Government can raise these vital issues with the Governments of the countries concerned. The Church also engages with our heads of mission, civil society groups and, where possible, with the foreign Governments in question.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Congregants at one of Aylesbury’s churches are deeply concerned about Christian charities in India being forbidden from receiving funds from overseas, amid reports of persecution based on faith. Such organisations often help some of the most vulnerable people in Indian society, so will my hon. Friend tell me what steps the Church of England is taking to help Christian charities and to stop faith-based persecution, both in India and elsewhere?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church of North India and the Church of South India seek to comply with Indian law in this respect. Pressure from outside India may make the situation worse for those who receive funds. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should make the Indian Government aware of the impact of such restrictions on Indian citizens. In the past, I have visited the Indian high commissioner in London with a cross-party group of MPs, all of us friends of India, to successfully raise a similar issue; my hon. Friend might like to consider such a visit.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Some 83% of the world’s population live in countries where freedom of religion or belief is not adequately respected. This freedom is essential for societies to secure democratic freedoms, economic development and peace, yet many people, including young people, are unaware of its importance. What is the Church of England doing to help to educate young people about the importance of freedom of religion or belief for all?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

It is a great pleasure to reply to my hon. Friend, the Prime Minister’s new envoy for freedom of religion or belief. The Church of England strongly supports educating young people to advocate for freedom of religion or belief for everyone globally. We are working with schools in the Gambia and, indeed, in Pakistan and Bangladesh to do exactly that, to help young people be advocates for freedom of religion or belief in their schools, families and communities.

Break in Debate

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Commissioners have made of the potential effect on the Church of England of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decision to take a sabbatical in May 2021. (912869)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

While he is carrying out academic study and writing a book, the Archbishop will delegate some of his duties to the Archbishop of York and other bishops. Study leave is available to all clergy and bishops, and the Archbishop’s two immediate predecessors also both took study leave.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend very much for his answer. It is a concern of many members of the frontline clergy, in the light of press reports, that there will be a reduction in the number of clergy in the Church of England. Given that the Archbishop is going on sabbatical and there is considerable concern about that, will my hon. Friend just outline how the Church of England will protect frontline clergy in the event of any review of Church structure?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend will be reassured that the Archbishop of York told the General Synod on Saturday that the Church needs more priests, not fewer, and a parish system revitalised for mission to tell even more people about the good news of Jesus, building on the amazing work that the Church has done to meet those in need during the pandemic.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I am now suspending the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements for the next business to be made.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 21st January 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have been working closely with both the Secretary of State for Wales and the Welsh Government on this challenge, which we all take seriously. I know that discussions have taken place in the past with the national Coal Authority on this matter as well, and we will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government on it.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

I can visit the Lucombe oak at Kew Gardens, but not the rhinos at Whipsnade, and they are both out in the fresh air. Will the Minister press for the outside areas of zoos to be made available for the public to visit, just as they can go to Kew Gardens, as soon as possible? (911122)

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We all very much hope to be able to lift the restrictions of lockdown as soon as possible. My hon. Friend will be aware that in the first lockdown, we allowed zoos to open after we allowed parks to open. Zoos are outdoors, but people tend to follow the same routes, so the risk is judged by Public Health England to be higher. However, I have sympathy with the issues zoos face, and we want to get them open as soon as possible.

Break in Debate

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the Church of England has made of the effectiveness of partnerships between local authorities and faith groups in providing support to vulnerable people during the covid-19 outbreak. (911079)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

I am delighted that Lichfield, Rochester, Blackburn and Salisbury cathedrals are among the church buildings being used as vaccination centres. As well as providing worship, prayer and community support, parishes have been providing food, medicine delivery, bereavement counselling and much more, serving the needs of everyone in their local communities.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The “Keeping the Faith” report in November showed the remarkable extent to which local councils have turned to churches and other faith groups during the pandemic, especially for help in distributing food, and how positive an experience for councils this has proved to be. Will the Church of England urge Ministers to help these new partnerships with local councils continue beyond the pandemic?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Yes indeed, and I warmly commend the all-party group on faith and society for its research, as well as the Kruger review. I look forward to Colin Bloom’s report, commissioned by the Government, which assesses faith community engagement. I hope it will build on my right hon. Friend’s important and very welcome all-party group research.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What progress the Church of England has made on its work to help tackle the persecution of Christians in Nigeria. (911082)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I begin by very warmly welcoming the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion and belief. She has campaigned both knowledgeably and forensically on these issues for many years.

The Church is deeply concerned about the unravelling of the state security apparatus in Nigeria and the activity of non-state actors, which is politicising and polarising identity in Nigeria.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A recent Open Doors UK event highlighted that Christians are more likely to be tortured and murdered for their faith by Islamic militants in the north of Nigeria than in any other country. Persecution also includes denying Christians food, aid and treatment for covid-19. The UK Government need to place pressure on the Nigerian Government to defend and protect their Christian population. What is the Church of England’s involvement in supporting these persecuted Christians, and what relief work is it doing with Nigerian internally displaced people camps?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who knows Nigeria well, is monitoring the recent violence and the kidnapping of 300 schoolboys. He and I have met the family of Leah Sharibu, who was kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2018, and who is still a prisoner, as she refuses to renounce Jesus. Clergy who have spoken out have been threatened by prominent civil society organisations, and the Church continues to stay closely involved.

Break in Debate

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What additional support has been provided to the clergy and churches to help people attend church in person or online during the January 2021 covid-19 lockdown. (911086)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Church is grateful to the Government for not imposing another national closure of religious buildings. It is right that parishes take local decisions on what to offer. There were nearly 36 million viewings of the Church’s Christmas “Comfort and Joy” series. For those who prefer the telephone, the DailyHope worship has received 350,000 free calls.

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is very encouraging to hear that. It is a matter of deep regret that churches were closed during the lockdowns last year. I very much appreciate that they are allowed to conduct services this time. Obviously we hope that we will all be out of restrictions soon, but there is always a danger of further restrictions. We worry a lot about the provision of online teaching in schools. Does my hon. Friend agree that the delivery of online live church services is enormously important, and—we must be frank—that this is not a skill that might come naturally to many vicars? Does he agree that the Church of England should make an absolute priority the provision of online resources, and the training of vicars and church teams to deliver them?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Indeed I do. Over 7,000 people have now attended the Church’s digital training, equipping parishes across the country to stream services on a variety of different platforms. My own rector has now been commended for her YouTube skills by eight-year-olds in her benefice.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many churches in Rother Valley have adapted during these times by holding online services, such as the many wonderful services at the Wales parish church and St Joseph’s, Dinnington. However, Rother Valley’s churches have lost a great deal of income from the in-person offertory collections and fundraising events, putting church maintenance and repairs at risk, including the much-needed repairs to St Simon and St Jude church in Thurcroft. Does my hon. Friend share my concern regarding the black hole in local churches’ budgets and potential delays to repairs, and will he work with churches to ensure that they have what they need to survive?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. I draw his attention to the Parish Giving Scheme, which people can do by direct debit, and to various online giving options. Of course, the commissioners have provided tens of millions of pounds to help churches. I would also say that perhaps people who are not paying for a season ticket might want to pay a little bit more to their local church, given that they have made a saving in that area.

Break in Debate

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Anglican communion is taking to tackle the persecution of Christians. (911088)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Church speaks up on behalf of all those who are unable to exercise their right to freedom of religion or belief. The Church of England is part of an international consortium that has just received £5.6 million from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to equip parliamentarians and religious leaders in eight countries in Africa and Asia to counter these challenges.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

From Nigeria to Eritrea and Burkina Faso to India, Christians are facing grave persecution because of their faith. The persecution of Christians, particularly where they are a religious minority, is a matter of growing concern among my constituents, and this has been reflected in the casework I am receiving. What steps is the Anglican Communion taking to tackle persecution of Christians across the world? Is the hon. Gentleman able to provide me with information on what guidance and support he is offering to churches in the UK in helping those who have fled persecution?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As part of the new Foreign Office project, the Church and the other consortium members will be equipping parliamentarians and religious leaders with the technical assistance and other expertise they need to propose solutions in their own countries to these terrible human rights abuses.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to promote regenerative agriculture on its landholdings. (911089)

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to assess the efficacy on its land of zero-till conservation agriculture in promoting increased soil health, reduced use of carbon, biodiversity gain and carbon sequestration. (911092)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church Commissioners are undertaking a natural capital assessment to provide a baseline for our carbon outputs and to understand our ecosystem services. This will provide a plan to lower carbon outputs and inform our natural capital strategy. Where possible, our tenancies have clauses relating to good husbandry and the non-removal of topsoil, and with longer-term tenancies, soil analyses are carried out at the beginning and the end of leases to ensure that soil health is maintained to a good standard.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. The Church Commissioners own an estate of about 105,000 acres. What is the Church doing to help its tenant farmers to achieve sustainable farming, especially in the light of the current pressure that farmers face during coronavirus?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in this important area. Over 60% of our agricultural land is let on secure agricultural tenancies and the remainder on more modern sorts of farm business tenancies. When new tenancies are granted, we encourage sustainable farming practices through our tenancy precedents. We will be reviewing this further in the light of our natural capital assessment results. We want to help our tenants to achieve both sustainable and profitable outcomes.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Church Commissioners’ ownership of a large amount of land—over 100,000 acres—gives us an opportunity to lead development of conservation agricultural farming techniques, improving soil health, reducing carbon inputs, and developing the evidence base on carbon sequestration. Does my hon. Friend agree that practitioners should approach management of their farming assets in the same way as they do with their other ethical investments?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As a leading global ethical investor, we regularly engage with all the businesses in which we are invested to improve best practice. While farming practices and management decisions are mainly taken by our agricultural tenants, we have some who do practice zero tillage, and we strongly encourage sustainable farming practices when new tenancies are granted.

Mark Eastwood Portrait Mark Eastwood (Dewsbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment he has made of the financial effect of the covid-19 outbreak on Church of England landholdings. (911090)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Commissioners’ property assets are independently valued by third parties on an annual basis. The audited financial results for 2020 will be available later in the year and laid before Parliament once an annual general meeting is able to take place.

Mark Eastwood Portrait Mark Eastwood [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The recently appointed Archbishop of York has spoken in the past about the importance of caring for green spaces. In his enthronement sermon, he declared that

“we are at risk of separating ourselves from the planet itself, so obsessed have we become with the dangerous suppositions of our own importance and dominion.”

Can my hon. Friend encourage the archbishop to act on his words and impress upon the Church Commissioner landowners the need to have a rethink of their plan for the unjustifiable destruction of unspoilt countryside and farmland at Chidswell in Dewsbury?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I know that my hon. Friend works tirelessly for the people of Dewsbury. I and the staff of the Church Commissioners have met him to discuss this issue. Although the planning application is yet to be determined, it is in line with the strategic objectives of the Kirklees development plan. It will not only bring much-needed new homes to his area, but new employment opportunities and new public open space.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking across the worldwide Anglican Communion to tackle the persecution of Christians during the covid-19 pandemic. (911091)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for being one of three Members today to raise this vitally important issue. The Church is grateful for the Government’s continuing commitment to implement the Bishop of Truro’s recommendations on this issue. In this week of prayer for Christian unity, we need to be especially mindful of persecuted Christians all around the world.

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What discussions has the Church of England had with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to ensure that covid-19 international assistance aid reaches all in need and is not abused by discrimination against Christians, which has appallingly occurred in some countries?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Last year, officials from the Church had regular meetings with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office—both Ministers and staff—where concerns were raised that covid-19 was being politicised and that minority communities were indeed being discriminated against. Bishops regularly raise this issue in the other place as well, and I can assure my hon. Friend that the Church will continue to engage with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as the need arises.

Break in Debate

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what support the Church of England is providing to schools during the January 2021 covid-19 lockdown. (911095)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

Diocesan education teams and local churches have focused on supporting the wellbeing of students and staff through the ongoing provision of collective worship, by providing and distributing food for disadvantaged families and, in many cases, by renovating and distributing technology to enable online learning to supplement the Government’s provision.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. Church leaders and congregations in Eastbourne and Willingdon at St Michael and All Angels and St John’s Meads have stepped into the digital divide by rallying round and providing laptops and devices for primary school children in their parishes. Will he join me in thanking them for their contribution, which complements the Government’s support in this vital area?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Of course I will do that. I am delighted to learn of the work of St Michael and All Angels and St John’s Meads. It is typical of what the Church is doing across the country to help not just schools but entire communiti-es.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 26th November 2020

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What representations the Church of England has made to the Government on the importance of public worship during periods of covid-19 lockdown. (909344)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

Both archbishops joined other faith leaders earlier this month in writing to the Prime Minister to highlight the importance of public worship. The worship of Jesus is the spiritual fuel that keeps the engine of the Church running.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Over the past 1,000 years, we have had a fair proportion of saints and sinners as Archbishop of Canterbury, but one thing that we demand of our established Church is that it provides robust leadership against arbitrary government. I do not know whether my hon. Friend noticed that 90 colleagues and I wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject of the closure of churches, but can he assure me, as a voice of the established Church in this place, that if there is any future proposal to prevent public worship, the Church of England will demand evidence—there has never been a shred of evidence—and we will try to save this very important part of public life?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I not only noted my right hon. Friend’s letter, but was one of the signatories to it. Like him, I know that clergy have worked extraordinarily hard to provide covid-secure services. I felt safer in church than in any other public space I have been in during the pandemic. My right hon. Friend makes a very valid point. I have registered that point very strongly, and I will absolutely feed it through to the leadership of the Church of England.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What proportion of agricultural land owned by the Church of England is high-quality grade 1 and 2 farmland. (909345)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Approximately 35,000 acres of land owned by the Church Commissioners is high-quality grade 1 and 2 farmland, representing 39% of the overall agricultural portfolio. Information on diocesan land holdings is not held by the Church Commissioners.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for that answer. At the last Church Commissioners questions, he said to me that he strongly wanted to see more trees planted on the Church estate, but that most of the rural estate is high-quality agricultural land and is therefore not suitable. He has just said that 39% is high-grade agricultural land. Does that not mean there is an awful lot of other land on which they could plant trees and help meet the Government’s commitment to increasing woodland cover?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As I think I said at the last questions, I commend the hon. Lady for raising this issue and, indeed, for returning to it today, and I genuinely welcome her scrutiny. More than 60% of our farmland is let on secure agricultural tenancies, with the rest on tenancies under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. Both of those limit our ability to intervene directly. However, we do encourage our tenants to farm sustainably and join environmental stewardship schemes to plant trees and hedgerows wherever possible. In addition, we are undertaking a natural capital assessment, which will provide a baseline and trajectory of progress towards achieving lower carbon outputs.

Break in Debate

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to help ensure that people can safely celebrate Advent and Christmas during the covid-19 outbreak. (909353)

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

From 2 December, places of worship can reopen for public worship, and churches and cathedrals can now approach Advent and Christmas with certainty. Clergy have already demonstrated that they have made their buildings covid-secure, and many cathedrals and churches are planning to have multiple services to accommodate more people as fewer are allowed in each service. The further good news is that, while indoor singing is limited to performance only, we can all take part in outdoor and door-to-door singing, staying 2 metres apart or away from the threshold, and nativity plays for under-18s are permitted in accordance with the performing arts guidance.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s comments on services, but at Christmas time, the Church does a lot more—it provides support for our communities through financial advice, fuel and food poverty advice and, of course, the social support that is at the heart of it all. With that in mind, what discussions has he had with local and national Government and the Churches to ensure that they can continue to provide that support in a covid-secure way at Christmas?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I know that my hon. Friend takes a close interest in this area of the Church’s work. The Church continues to work with the Government through the places of worship taskforce to advise parishes on how to continue providing critical assistance locally, which they have done wonderfully well. For example, St Peter’s in Market Bosworth, in his constituency, is supporting the local women’s refuge with food and toiletries.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Once again, churches have done amazingly through this pandemic, continuing with outreach to their communities. I pay tribute to the churches in Penrith and The Border and across the country that enabled remembrance ceremonies to go ahead this year in challenging circumstances. Does he agree that, as churches look to reopen for worship and other activities in the months ahead, targeted Government financial support for them would be a great way to ensure that their vital community work and support can carry on?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Churches did indeed organise very respectful and safe remembrance services. The National Churches Trust estimates that the economic value of our social action is worth around £12.4 billion. I can tell my hon. Friend that 227 churches and cathedrals have been supported by the culture recovery fund, for which I thank the Government.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Churches in Redcar and Cleveland, such as St Mark’s in Marske and St Cuthbert’s in Ormesby, have gone above and beyond to ensure that the risk of transmission in churches is low. They are a place for people of all faiths and none to find peace in what has been an incredibly difficult eight months. Unfortunately, Advent Sunday this year will fall inside the lockdown, but I am grateful that the Government have said that churches can reopen for the rest of Advent from 2 December. What message does the Church Commissioner have for those churches in Redcar and Cleveland in the approach to Christmas?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to learn of the important role that churches in Redcar and Cleveland have played in helping people to find peace during this dreadful pandemic. The closure of churches is not something that any of us ever wants to see again. I hope that my hon. Friend’s constituents will follow the advice of the Archbishop of Canterbury: to come to church in person or virtually and to spend time with their wider families in a safe and responsible way.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent assessment the commissioners have made of the effectiveness of the process of appeal against consistory court decisions to the provincial court of the archbishop. (909348)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The decision of a consistory court can, with permission, be appealed to the relevant provincial court, provided that the appeal does not relate to a question of doctrine, ritual or ceremonial. As in the temporal courts, an appeal must have a real prospect of success, or there should be some other compelling reason why the appeal should be heard.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to pay tribute to the family of Margaret Keane, whose grief at the loss of their mother has been compounded by still not having a headstone on her grave to visit this Christmas, two and a half years on from her death. The family have said that Margaret is “In our hearts forever”—“In ár gcroíthe go deo”—and that sentiment is shared now by the Irish community in Britain. May I ask the commissioner—I thank him and the Church for their engagement with me and the work they do in Saint Helens in the diocese of Liverpool—if a review can take place into the current appeals system in ecclesiastical courts, whereby even successful appellants are liable potentially for huge court costs to an unlimited amount? This is an access to justice issue and one of fairness that should be looked at.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am sure that the whole House would want to extend their sympathies to the Keane family, and I am hopeful that change is on the way. The Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2020, which was recently passed by this House, provides for exemptions from and reductions in court fees in the ecclesiastical courts to be made in secondary legislation. The Fees Advisory Commission will be asked to consider these provisions and, following that, an Order in General Synod will be made next year and will be laid before Parliament.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to secure the long-term financial stability of the parish church network following the covid-19 outbreak. (909349)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church has provided £35 million of sustainability funding to help dioceses that have been the hardest hit financially as a result of the pandemic. This is focused on dioceses in lower income areas and with fewer historic resources. Advice has been given on encouraging joyful giving and tithing as the cornerstone of parish finances, both by direct debit and card readers, as well as traditional giving in the plate.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Good morning, Mr Speaker, and I look forward to seeing you later.

I thank my hon. Friend for his response on behalf of the Church Commissioners—[Inaudible]—it is pleasing to hear. We look forward to a quick return to daily and weekly services for primary worship as soon as we are able, but also to the collections taken at these services along with the extra-curricular activities in the annual calendar of parish churches to fundraise and generate income for churches and their parishioners, which we hope can be reinstated as soon as is practicable, too.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Public worship can start again from next Wednesday, but it may take a while for church hall income, fundraising events and visitor income to pick up. Twelve churches in the Lincoln diocese have received £1.8 million from the Government’s culture recovery fund, and Lincoln cathedral has received £1.2 million from that fund.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England has taken to support local communities throughout the covid-19 outbreak. (909350)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As the Archbishop of York has pointed out, the Church has been “astonishingly present” throughout the pandemic, with over 35,000 active community projects. The GRA:CE Project report by Theos and the Church Urban Fund documents the enormous range and depth of this involvement, and the National Churches Trust’s “The House of Good” report recently estimated that parishes contribute around £12.4 billion of social good to the English economy.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that my hon. Friend would agree with me that at this particular time our churches are more important than ever. Certainly in my constituency, they do remarkable work—for instance, with the Southend night shelters—and during the coronavirus pandemic, they have been delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people. Will my hon. Friend please tell the House what the Church is doing to thank local churches and to celebrate their work?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and he is absolutely right that we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to clergy and parish workers, who have worked extraordinarily hard throughout the pandemic. In Southend West, for example, at Saint Saviour’s Westcliff, the congregation host a food bank and are collecting prescriptions and delivering food to those who are unable to leave their homes in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Church of England is encouraging all congregations to continue with this kind of neighbourliness over the Christmas period to support vulnerable and lonely people.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to prevent the persecution of Christians throughout the world. (909351)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I would like to thank my hon. Friend for the enormous dedication and energy he put into this issue as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for religious freedom. The Church of England continues to press for the implementation of all the Truro report recommendations and challenges Governments and other faith leaders around the world who do not respect freedom of religion or belief.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. Recently around the world, including in Nice and Vienna, evil acts have been committed in the name of religion. Pope Francis said in 2018:

“Every religious leader is called to unmask any attempt to manipulate God for ends that have nothing to do with him or his glory.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed similar views in 2016 on tackling extremism through theological dialogue. Can my hon. Friend confirm what steps are being taken by the Church to work with other faith leaders around the world to further address the issue of persecutions of Christians, who are the largest persecuted faith in the world, and to address the issue of other individuals of all faiths being persecuted for their faith through theological and inter-faith dialogue?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend will know that there is a debate later today on this very subject, and he is absolutely right about the importance of inter-faith dialogue, which is why three years ago the Anglican primates launched an inter-faith commission to build mutual understanding and trust between different faiths. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has a particular heart for reconciliation, said it

“will bring together the wisest people across the Communion to work on this area in the places of highest tension with the aim of replacing diversity in conflict with diversity in collaboration.”

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What discussions the commissioners have had with the chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals on services during Christmastide; and if he will make a statement. (909354)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church Commissioners have regular discussions with the Association of English Cathedrals, and cathedrals have made huge efforts to reach out to people in their areas. Lichfield cathedral, which I know is close to my hon. Friend’s heart—I think that he lives within its shadow—will be having an illuminations show and will hold as many services as possible, including some outside if necessary.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let us go to the shadows of Litchfield cathedral, with Michael Fabricant.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Speaker; I am indeed very close to Lichfield cathedral, and the dean of Lichfield cathedral is the chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals. We are all delighted that we are going to have services this year and he has sent me a question, and I am going to read it, because he only lives a few doors down, and I have given my hon. Friend prior notice of the question. The dean asks, “What additional support can be given to cathedrals in the first quarter of 2021 to ensure they remain open and responsive to public need?”

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I will be leaving these questions to go into a governors meeting of the Church Commissioners, so I will pass that on very directly. I can tell him that Lichfield cathedral has received £140,000 from the national lottery heritage emergency fund, but I know it needs extra funding for urgent building projects, including a buttress that is causing structural concern. I can also tell him that conversations with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Treasury about the Government’s own Taylor review of church and cathedral building sustainability are ongoing.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With reference to the publication of the November 2020 Church of England report entitled “Living in Love and Faith”, what steps the Church is taking to encourage parishes to discuss sexuality and methods of supporting their own LGBT communities. (909357)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The “Living in Love and Faith” report is a teaching and learning resource for the Church on marriage, sexuality and relationships. We hope it will enable parishes to learn together over the next year as we engage graciously, respectfully and compassionately with each other.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that equality cannot just be about words, but also needs to be about actions, so what is actually being done to reach out to support LGBTQ+ members of the Church at a local level?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church recognises that we are all created in the image of God and should all be treated with dignity, which is why we have also created an anti-racism taskforce. With “Living in Love and Faith”, we will move towards a period of discernment and decision making in 2022, and we want to ensure that differences of view are expressed courteously and kindly—something we could do rather better on in this Chamber from time to time.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent steps the Anglican Communion has taken to help tackle gender-based violence throughout the world. (909367)

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Anglican communion is supporting yesterday’s White Ribbon Day, the United Nations day for the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls, with 16 days of online panel discussions and social media campaigns to spot and eradicate gender-based violence. The resources are available in seven languages in over 165 countries, and this is as essential for economic development as it is for the promotion of fundamental human dignity.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s and Church Commissioners’ support for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Sexual violence in conflict remains far too common a tactic of warfare. Can the Church Commissioners report on the steps being taken by the Anglican communion to stop the dreadful stigmatisation of survivors of sexual violence in conflict and the important role that the Church can play around the world?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this completely horrific practice. I can tell her that the Bishop of Gloucester has led discussions with Ministers about the role of faith communities, which are often the first point of call for people in need. Parishes are often willing to scale up support for people suffering from gender-based violence and domestic abuse. It is important that there is a level playing field for all providers of support and advice services, including church ones. That is what we are doing in the UK, but I take her point about the global nature of this issue and the important role that the Anglican communion has in engaging with it.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 15th October 2020

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What progress the Church of England is making on increasing participation in worship, weddings and other ceremonies. [907545]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, 10:11 a.m.

The “A Church Near You” website advertises 17,000 regular Church of England virtual services and events, and those are only a portion of all that is on offer. Weddings and funerals are also often livestreamed, as my own daughter’s was in the summer, and my hon. Friends will be pleased to know that Carlisle cathedral streamed ordinations earlier this month and that St Martin’s, Liskeard will have a drive-in carol service in Morrisons car park on 20 December, which will also be livestreamed.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, 10:12 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging answer. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it has been at first impossible and latterly difficult to enable church congregations to meet physically as they used to. However, churches up and down the land have done amazingly by offering virtual services, prayer sessions and courses such as Alpha courses, meaning that many additional people who had never been to church before are now involved in a church. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking churches of all denominations who have done so much during the pandemic to serve their local communities, ranging from worship opportunities to physical care, food distribution and pastoral support?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, 10:12 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for what he said. Of course, I am delighted to do so. I am sure, in fact, that the whole House would like to thank clergy, staff and volunteers who have risen to the challenge of maintaining worship and meeting need in a magnificent manner. They have been astonishingly present throughout the pandemic.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Murray
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, 10:12 a.m.

Government guidance talks of including participation in livestreaming of services, as my hon. Friend mentioned with his daughter’s wedding. What technical help is being given to assist churches to allow them to include more participation?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I can tell my hon. Friend that the Church made a significant investment in a new digital communications team back in 2016. The training has been used by over 4,000 clergy. Over 7 million people have used our daily prayer apps. Nearly 3 million people have watched national online services, with about a fifth of those being people who rarely go to church or do not go at all. The good news is that the Church is reaching more people than ever before.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent discussions the Commissioners have had with Government Ministers on covid-19 attendance restrictions for baptisms, weddings and funerals. [907541]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, 10:13 a.m.

The Government have kept in constant touch with the Church of England, all denominations and all faiths throughout the pandemic. Dioceses, parishes and cathedrals are quickly notified of any changes to law or guidance.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, 10:14 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but how can we ensure that we do not put any further restrictions on baptisms, weddings and funerals? Does my hon. Friend agree that those ceremonies must be supported and that we cannot have another six months of cancellations?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. I am very pleased that baptisms, weddings and funerals can continue in some form in all three covid alert tiers. I am pleased that the Government recognise the huge significance of those services in people’s lives.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What plans the Church of England has to implement the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse investigation report on the Anglican Church, published in October 2020. [907542]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, the findings of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse are “shameful and disgraceful” and remind us how badly we have treated and continue to treat victims and survivors. All the recommendations are going to the House of Bishops on Monday for urgent response and action.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, midnight

Any Church should be a haven for children and young people to be able to grow in Christ but to do so in safety. The report found that 390 clergy and leaders in the Church of England were convicted of child abuse between the 1940s and 2018, but many more will have evaded punishment for their crimes. In fact, in 2018 alone, we heard that 449 concerns were raised about child sexual abuse relating to church leaders, so does the Commissioner agree that historical complaints against living alleged perpetrators must be investigated and justice brought for their victims? Can he outline what action the Church is taking to ensure that those found guilty of offences are removed as a threat to children?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, midnight

I can indeed. The House of Bishops is urgently and very seriously considering the recommendations, including deposition from holy orders. We will address both practice and culture within the Church and are working on a redress scheme for victims and survivors, and we fully co-operate with all police investigations.

Break in Debate

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the Church of England has made of the economic effect on parishes of the inability to rent out church premises during the covid-19 outbreak. [907548]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, 10:25 a.m.

Around 60% of parish income comes from giving, but rental income from halls and other premises has been badly affected, so I would strongly encourage Christians to increase their giving to their local church if they are able to do so, to support our ability to tell more people the good news of Jesus and, critically, to support the 35,000 social action projects helping children who are homeless and vulnerable.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, 10:24 a.m.

St Mary’s in Aylesbury is a grade 1 listed community treasure that is fundraising for much-needed repair and restoration, but it has lost about 40% of its overall income this year due to coronavirus, notwithstanding the commitment of members of the congregation who are paying by standing order, which is still being done. However, events such as lunchtime concerts, craft fairs and civic services have all been cancelled, so what will the Church do to help parishes such as St Mary’s financially during the current crisis?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

15 Oct 2020, 10:25 a.m.

I very much recognise the picture that my hon. Friend paints of what is happening at St Mary’s in Aylesbury. I can tell him that, nationally, the Church has provided a sustainability fund to respond to the financial pressures caused by covid, and I also want to thank the Culture Secretary for the £10.7 million for vital repair work for 66 churches and cathedrals, and for what it will do to keep key craftsmen and women in work. I would welcome my hon. Friend’s support in engaging the Government with the Taylor review recommendations to support the maintenance of churches like St Mary’s in Aylesbury in a sustainable and long-term manner.

Break in Debate

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What proportion of the Church of England’s estate is covered with woodland. [907556]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

In December 2019, the Church Commissioners had 53% of their global land, 27.5% of their UK land and 4% of their English land in forestry, and we also own pooled timber funds in the United States.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15 Oct 2020, 10:28 a.m.

The 4% English cover puts it at the very bottom of the list. As I understand it, there are 105,000 acres in England. Why is the figure so low? Is there not a strategy to increase that cover, given that we know how important the role of trees is in natural carbon sequestration? Could the Church of England not do an awful lot better when it comes to England?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Like the hon. Lady, I strongly want to see more trees planted, and can tell her that so far this year we have planted 1.1 million trees in the UK, on top of the 2.6 million last year. We are always looking to plant more trees, but most of our rural estate is high-quality agricultural land, and is held in long-term tenancies to produce food.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to support mental health during the covid-19 outbreak. [905855]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

This is a timely question from my hon. Friend, on World Suicide Prevention Day. The Church’s healthcare chaplains work in both acute and community mental health services. The diocese of Manchester provides mental health wellbeing youth workers, to provide mental health first aid, and the parish of Goudhurst in Kilndown in Kent provides subsidised mental health counselling in 13 schools.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given the current crisis and the inability of young people to meet, what impact is covid-19 having on the young persons working for the Church in that good work?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend raises an important point. His own diocese, the diocese of Oxford, reports that connection with young people has been greatly reduced throughout lockdown. With the new measures to suppress the virus coming in on Monday, churches can hold services tailored to young people, as many already do, and church youth groups can continue to meet in multiple groups of six or fewer. I hope that churches will consider those options to increase the number of young people involved with the life of the Church.

Break in Debate

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to support national recovery from the covid-19 outbreak. [905863]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

Church schools have taken a lead in getting children back to school, and many of the Church of England’s 33,000 social action projects have adapted and expanded—for example, in the provision of food, especially to those who are vulnerable and shielding. In my hon. Friend’s diocese of Salisbury, £1.27 million has been spent on the Renewing Hope project to support ministry and mission in rural communities, and Salisbury cathedral is one of 12 to benefit from the £900,000 the commissioners have spent supporting heritage crafts.

Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. It is incredibly encouraging to hear all of that. Does he agree with me that faith communities, the Church and other faith groups have a huge contribution to make to national recovery and to the future of our society, but that to realise this potential we need public servants at all levels of national and local government and in public services to overcome certain prejudices or suspicions they have about working with faith groups, and what does he think the Government can do to encourage this?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am pleased that my hon. Friend has raised this point, because he is absolutely right. The Government need to combat religious illiteracy by making the case that the public square should never be purely secular, as secular humanism is itself a belief system and such an approach would be illiberal.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to support people in financial difficulty during the covid-19 outbreak. [905864]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Some 1,000 Church of England parishes are directly involved in debt advice, sometimes working with debt counselling organisations such as Christians Against Poverty. In my hon. Friend’s county of Leicestershire, the diocese of Leicester chairs the Fair Finance Group, which tackles financial exclusion, working with local councils, the Department for Work and Pensions and credit unions.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, because financial difficulty is a really difficult problem. I was lucky enough to visit St John’s in Hinckley, at the request of the Rev. Gary Weston, where he showed me their food bank and the food parcels that they deliver to provide support locally. One of the questions that he wanted me to ask today was about better joining up with local government and raising awareness of what churches can do, because they can respond very quickly to provide support for local people in need. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that that can happen?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, which leads on directly from the previous question from our hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger), and he is absolutely right to raise it. I am very aware of the good work of St John’s in Hinckley. He might know that it is benefiting from £800,000 of further investment in mission and ministry, provided by the Church’s strategic development funding. Churches such as St John’s have been quietly getting on with essential work in the community, as is happening up and down the country, and I am hugely grateful to all of them. He is absolutely right; they need to work hand in hand with local authorities, and local authorities need to be aware of what churches are doing in their areas.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to support churches to continue to use innovative ways of conducting services after the covid-19 outbreak. [905865]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is right to raise this point. I know that he, like me, celebrates the fact that now more people than ever have been taking part in church services during lockdown. The Church will continue to support good online worship, incorporating the best of the changes from lockdown with the best of what came before.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since the beginning of the pandemic, churches have been conducting services in a variety of ways. I am thinking in particular of the open-air services held by Wave House church in Newquay and the Anchor church in Fowey—in Cornwall we do like a church with a maritime themed name. Other churches have been holding services online. A recent Tearfund survey found that as many as one in four adults in the UK has listened to or watched a religious service during the lockdown. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as we come out of the pandemic, it is important that churches continue to innovate and adapt, in order to engage with people in a variety of ways?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Absolutely. My hon. Friend raises a really important point. I am grateful to him for alerting the House to Tearfund’s research, which found that one in four people in the UK has listened to or watched a religious service over the lockdown, and I am particularly pleased to learn of the initiatives in the two local churches that he mentioned. He will be pleased to know that the diocese of London, for example, has led large outdoor services, and in the diocese of Norwich, in a large-scale drive-in service, hymns and preaching were beamed directly to car radios through a dedicated FM channel.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When he plans to provide an outline business case for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. [905877]

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When the Church Commissioners plan to reopen cathedrals and churches for worship; and if he will make a statement. [903779]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The last three months have been the first time in more than 800 years that England has gone without public worship and the sacraments, so there is real joy that we can meet again, socially distanced, from 4 July. I can give an assurance that the personal safety of clergy who are shielding should be prioritised and they can continue to do their duties remotely.

Cheryl Gillan Portrait Dame Cheryl Gillan [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The self-sacrifice of so many people during the extreme lockdown period will have saved many lives, but one of the great sacrifices for many people will have been the inability to attend church physically and to have had to cancel weddings, baptisms and other deeply significant ceremonies. I understand my hon. Friend had to cancel his own daughter’s wedding last Saturday, and I wish her and her fiancé all the best. Will he now confirm that their wedding, as well as many others, can now go ahead in safety in church with 30 guests, and when does he expect the number of guests to be increased to reflect the capacity of the church being used and the new 1 metre-plus rule?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my right hon. Friend for her kind good wishes, which are greatly appreciated. As she said, weddings can now take place from 4 July, but only with a maximum of 30 people. This is a huge relief to many couples throughout the country. For church services, there is no maximum number within a place of worship as long as the premises comply with covid-secure guidelines.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given the country’s need for more housing, including more social housing, are the Church Commissioners able to take into account social and community outcomes in their land development decisions, and not just maximising financial profit?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and I can tell her that the Church of England pensions board already supports the social housing market through investments in social housing bonds. The commissioners also make provision for social and affordable housing on housing developments as per local planning requirements, while being required, like all charities, to obtain best value reasonably obtainable in the market when disposing of assets. But I am keen to explore whether the Church Commissioners are able to play any further role in solving the nation’s housing crisis. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s housing commission, which the Bishop of Kensington co-chairs, is looking separately at wider housing policy, and I am engaging closely with that work.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I used to enjoy a hymn sandwich before this interdict, but I have broken the habit. How is my hon. Friend going to lure us back if we are not allowed to sing? May I suggest, as a minimum, shorter services, even shorter sermons, some comfortable words from the Book of Common Prayer and an end to prating prelates?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Well, Andrew Selous, sing to that one.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

That is a challenge indeed, Mr Speaker, but what I would say to my right hon. Friend is that I hope he has taken part in some of the uplifting online worship and services that have been available to him during the lockdown, and I would add that the warmth of the welcome, the opportunity for fellowship and the chance to grow in faith through prayer, worship and the revelation of God’s word will prove an irresistible temptation to my right hon. Friend to return.

John Lamont Portrait John Lamont
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I very much welcome that services can resume in places of worship in England and that private prayer is allowed in other nations of the United Kingdom, but what discussions have there been with Churches to ensure that people are encouraged to go back to church and are reassured that it is safe to do so?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Church is delighted to be able to throw open its doors again, so that we can gather again for public worship and weddings in the way that we have not been able to do over the past three months. We will make sure that people are safe. I know that clergy and church wardens are taking their responsibilities very seriously to make sure that people are safe when they come, and we are really looking forward to seeing them back again in all our churches.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are now heading to the shadows of the spires of Lichfield cathedral with one Michael Fabricant.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Speaker: from where I am sitting now Lichfield cathedral is just about 100 yards behind me.

Lichfield has a great choral tradition; we have a choral school and the services are very good. It is open for two hours a day at the moment for private prayer, but when does my hon. Friend anticipate that we will be able to go to evensong and enjoy the wonderful choir that sings there?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Cathedrals such as Lichfield are at the centre of the amazing choral tradition that we have in this country. Sadly, I have to tell him that singing and chanting are not allowed even at a distance, due to the additional risk of infection, and woodwind and brass instruments should not be used, but that still leaves many other instruments. His constituents can return for public worship from 4 July and I know that Lichfield Cathedral will be making them very welcome when they return.

Break in Debate

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the commissioners have made of the effect of live streaming church services on the number of people taking part in church services. [903759]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that more people have been taking part in church services during lockdown than ever before. The national weekly service of the Church has been viewed more than 5.2 million times, with 21.5 million related social media posts, and a third of the people watching Archbishop Justin Welby’s Easter day service were under the age of 34.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Parishes in the Winslow benefice in my constituency are seeing 400 to 500 people take part in virtual services each Sunday and about 100 each day in midday-ish prayer. Given the extraordinary number of people who have either connected with the Church for the first time or reconnected with it virtually, what plans do the Church Commissioners have to set aside funds to continue this excellent work?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am delighted to learn about the increase in church attendance in my hon. Friend and neighbour’s constituency. It is not unusual. The Church made a significant investment in a new digital communications team in 2016 and we will continue to make sure that we provide a good digital offering. The experience of my hon. Friend in Winslow has been widely shared by churches across the country. Some 1,600 people are currently attending an online alpha course at one of our churches, and 3.3 million people have now watched the UK blessing worship video on YouTube, put together by Gas Street Church in Birmingham.

Rosie Duffield Portrait Rosie Duffield (Canterbury) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the commissioners have made of the ability of (a) smaller and (b) rural churches to re-open safely as the covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. [903760]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Church House staff and the House of Bishops are doing everything they can to assist parish churches to open safely. The guidance published by the Church is applicable for small and rural churches as well as for larger and urban churches.

Rosie Duffield Portrait Rosie Duffield
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is obviously fantastic to see Canterbury Cathedral open for private prayer, but rural and smaller village communities often use their churches as a lifeline, particularly those who have been shielding. I want to reassure them that it is going to be safe for them to return to church soon.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I can give the hon. Lady that reassurance. I know from my own village church how seriously the vicar and the church wardens are taking their responsibilities to make sure that the return will be safe, with hand sanitiser, removing the kneelers, keeping prayer books covered up and so on, as well as making sure that people sit at an appropriate distance. I am sure that the rural churches will be back in action shortly in the hon. Lady’s constituency.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England has taken to support family life during the covid-19 lockdown. [903763]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

25 Jun 2020, 10:19 a.m.

In the diocese of Oxford, which covers Beaconsfield, churches have opened food banks and community larders and supported vulnerable people who are socially isolating as well as asylum seekers and key workers. In addition, nationally, the new marriage and pre-marriage courses have been available online throughout lockdown so that any local church can forward them to couples wanting to invest in their relationship.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jun 2020, 10:20 a.m.

What better way to celebrate couples than getting married, but, sadly, in beautiful Beaconsfield countless couples have had to cancel their church wedding. I welcome the news of 30 people being able to gather at a wedding, but what has the Church of England done to work with Government and to lobby them to increase the numbers for gatherings and weddings? Could we increase those numbers for this summer?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and she is right to say that a maximum of 30 people will be allowed at weddings from 4 July. That 30 includes the minister and the couple, and there should be social distancing of 1 metre-plus between individuals, households and support bubbles. The figure of 30 is what the Government have advised for now, and they obviously continue to listen to the science, but the couples I have spoken to are just so pleased to be able to get married. Perhaps a bigger party—perhaps a celebration of the renewal of vows—could take place next year.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the commissioners have made of the financial effect of the covid-19 outbreak on churches. [903766]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

25 Jun 2020, 10:21 a.m.

Lockdown has meant that income from hall lettings, events and parochial fees has stopped completely in many cases. Donations of gift aid have also been adversely affected, so the Church is hugely grateful to those who are able to support it through the planned giving scheme. That regular, committed giving has become more important than ever to the mission and ministry of the Church.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Jun 2020, 10:22 a.m.

The Catholic diocese of Shrewsbury, which covers my constituency, has told me that income is down by a third since lockdown—a loss heading towards £700,000. In the long term, this will have an impact on building maintenance. Have the Government considered an enhanced gift aid scheme to help our faith communities to mitigate the damage?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and he is absolutely right to draw attention to this. I will certainly raise the issue with the Government on his behalf and that of the diocese that has brought it to his attention. I am grateful to him.

Break in Debate

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the effectiveness of the transition pathway initiative managed by the Church of England pension fund trustees. [903771]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The Church is proud of its role in developing the transition pathway initiative, which enables asset owners to identify which companies are implementing strategies in line with the Paris climate agreement. It is supported by investors, with over $20 trillion of assets under management, so it is now possible to distinguish between the high-carbon companies that are transitioning and those that are not.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very grateful for that answer, and congratulate the Church’s pension trustees on their innovation and vision. The TPI has worked with major global companies to reduce their emissions and has established a framework for pension funds to move towards net zero emissions. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me whether our own parliamentary pension fund is able to sign up to the initiative, and what more the Church could do to encourage other pension funds to join that $20 trillion of assets?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Each set of pension trustees has its own responsibilities, but I note that the Pensions Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), has said it is important that all pension fund trustees understand the risks and opportunities posed to their investments by climate change. I am always delighted when others follow where the Church leads.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I will briefly suspend the House.

Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Reopening

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As hon. Members can see, there is quite a bit of interest in this debate, so please be mindful of that when you are making contributions, particularly of the length of the contribution.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

11 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I congratulate both my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) and the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) on their fantastic speeches. It is a testament to how important this issue is that the Chamber is this full on a Thursday afternoon.

When people ask me where I am the Member of Parliament for, I normally say Whipsnade zoo, because it is by far the best known part of my constituency. It occupies 600 stunningly beautiful acres of the south Bedfordshire countryside and it is a part of the Zoological Society of London, which is joined with Whipsnade zoo, so London zoo and Whipsnade zoo are both part ZSL, the same organisation.

I wish to start with a big thank you to the Minister. I have said on a number of occasions that her Department, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has been—if I can put it this way—on the side of the angels in this debate. It has been standing up for zoos and doing the right thing, so I would like to pass on my thanks to her and the Department for what they have done. Monday will be a great day. At 10 o’clock on Monday morning, Whipsnade zoo will open. There is a morning session and an afternoon session. I urge people to please go on the website and book. If they are going in the morning, they should go early so that they can make the most of it—they should not turn up in the late morning as they will not get full enjoyment from the experience. They should go on the website and book because normally in the Easter and May bank holiday periods Whipsnade will take in just under £8 million of income, so that is £8 million of income that it has lost. It costs the zoo £2.3 million a month to run London and Whipsnade zoos and do all the vital global conservation research work. They are in a £25 million black hole.

As the hon. Member for City of Chester said absolutely rightly, it is the vital conservation work that will be first to go. Of course London and Whipsnade zoos will put the animals—their 20,000 animals—first, as they should, but no one here wants to see that vital conservation work go, because it is so important. The ZSL research provides the Living Planet Index, which tells us of our indescribably awful biodiversity loss. Members will know from the United Nations report last year that 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many of those within decades. Since the 16th century, we have already lost 680 vertebrate species, and I do not want us to lose any more on our watch. It is too important: we must stick up for nature and the glorious animal kingdom.

Whipsnade does so much. It has reintroduced tigers to Nepal, Kenya and Indonesia, and rhinos to Nepal and Kenya. It has helped restore coral reefs in the Philippines, and it has helped get angel sharks back off the coast of Wales and even seals and eels in the Thames right next to this building. And these zoos mean so much. I spoke to a lady in my constituency last week who has given all her holiday money to the zoo; it meant that much to her. People really do care about this in this country.

However, the costs are huge and ongoing, and the income has been eliminated. That is why I say to the Minister that the first part—the reopening—is excellent and fantastic, and thank you so much, but we need a multimillion pound package so that we do not lose the vital global conservation work. The research by Whipsnade led to the Dasgupta review, which played quite a significant part in helping to bring COP26 to the United Kingdom.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it is a little irritating to Whipsnade and London zoos that they see institutions such as Kew and the Natural History Museum regularly getting significant amounts of Government money, whereas I do not think any of the zoos we have talked about today are in receipt of Government funding. These are institutions that are normally financially self-sustainable and do not come cap in hand to the Government, but they have had their income taken away and their costs have continued. That is why I have one more request, please Minister, for one more final shove: let us get this multimillion-pound package to help all our zoos survive and not lose that vital conservation work.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) gets a result before he has even opened his mouth. That is certainly an example to other parliamentarians of how to do things, and I pay tribute to him for his great work in this field.

Just like my hon. Friend, I am an animal lover. In fact, we have been all over the world, and hon. Members can be reassured that whenever I travel with him there is always a visit to a zoo. We have been to Shanghai zoo to see the pandas and to Madagascar to see the lemurs, and all over the world we have seen these marvellous animals. Before I forget, my hon. Friend mentioned Edinburgh zoo and the pandas there—I have been there—and I think we should get our money back. These two pandas were leased from China on the basis that there would be the pitter-patter of tiny feet, and for a long while now the Scottish people have waited for something to happen but it is not happening. However, as my hon. Friend said, it is good that China is at least prepared to lease these animals.

My long-suffering mother had a small child who was animal mad. Every time I wanted to be taken out I wanted to go to a zoo, so we went to a zoo. I wanted to ride on an animal, and there I would be in the queue with the ice-cream—a 99—melting as we eventually got to the animal at the front. In those days, of course, we could ride on practically anything, although I do not think I ever rode on a lion or a tiger. However, I did see Guy the Gorilla.

My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) spoke about Whipsnade, which is an absolutely fantastic place, and I love the giraffes there. Zoos are very controversial, but I will not have a word said against them.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps the Church of England is taking to support family life during the covid-19 lockdown. [902783]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

19 May 2020, midnight

With no access to our church buildings, considerable innovation by the clergy has seen the creation of virtual prayer services, school assemblies, study groups, fellowship meetings and craft workshops. That is in addition to online church services, bereavement counselling, marriage preparation and marriage support.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In normal times, churches engage with thousands of parents and children each week through playgroups, coffee mornings, church services and youth groups, providing support to families across all sections of society. In my constituency, groups such as these have been a lifeline to many families, including my own. During this crisis, what steps are churches taking to remain in contact with these families, particularly to support parents as they continue to raise children in very difficult circumstances?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

19 May 2020, midnight

I am so pleased to hear how the work of the church benefits my hon. Friend’s family and the families of many of her Penistone and Stocksbridge constituents. I also recommend that families check out the Faith at Home video resources of the Church of England, which nurture a growing faith and this month focus on hope, courage, love and humility—all qualities that we need at work and in the community, as well as at home.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What assessment the Commissioners have made of the implications for the access of clergy to their churches of the most recent Government advice on covid-19. [902784]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

19 May 2020, midnight

Clergy can now return to their churches to pray and live-stream services. For the time being, churches must remain closed for public worship, as set out in law. The Government set out their ambition to reopen places of worship from 4 July, subject to further scientific advice. No place of worship will be able to reopen before a final decision by the Government, the necessary changes to the legal position in the published regulations and the accompanying decision by the diocesan bishop, which will take into account local circumstances.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

During this national crisis, there has been a vital role for the established Church to represent the concerns and fears of the whole nation. Does my hon. Friend agree that the physical presence of a parish church, open for prayer and attended by its priests, is an important signal that we are not alone in our struggle? Health workers, care workers, bin collectors, posties and now all those who are unable to undertake their work from home have been asked to accept additional personal risk to carry out their important work for the health and wellbeing of the nation. Should our clergy not be allowed to provide the same level of service to their—[Inaudible.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Whatever you can answer of that.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the physical presence of churches, but while our buildings may be closed, the Church is very much alive and has been astonishingly present in the midst of suffering and need, providing comfort, inspiration and a great deal of practical help. Those who allege that we have done nothing or vacated the field are not correct.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What representations the Church of England has received on the adaptation of its buildings, liturgy and worship prior to their reopening after the covid-19 lockdown. [902785]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

19 May 2020, midnight

The House of Bishops guidance issued on 5 May shows that the Church of England is committed to reopening buildings in a phased and measured manner, in accordance with the legal position. We are working with the Government and representatives of the heritage planning sector to assess the need for building adaptations related to public health.

Fiona Bruce Portrait Fiona Bruce [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Polling shows that during the current crisis, one in four adults, and one in three of 16 to 30-year-olds, have joined a religious service remotely. Does my hon. Friend welcome that, and what is the Church doing to ensure that this continues more widely, even after lockdown?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing those figures to the House’s attention and I welcome them very warmly, particularly the large viewing figures among younger people. She is absolutely right that the Church will need to keep up a significant online presence well after lockdown has finished.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking with (a) the Government and (b) other faith groups to support people in need. [902787]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

The priority for the Church has been to continue its vital service to those in material and spiritual need in all communities despite the restrictions imposed. Bishops and the Church are in regular contact with Ministers, and to this end the Church is represented on two Cabinet Office taskforces.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With a fantastic collection of Wisden cricket books, we go to Sir John Hayes.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have many interests, including cricket, as you do I know.

The smaller charities are struggling because of fundraising difficulties in the current crisis. Will my hon. Friend look at how the Church can work with those charities? It is true that our churches have closed, but the Church has many buildings—church halls and so on—that might be made available. Fellowship and faith are so important at this time, as is our charitable work. I wonder if he can help.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

All food bank work in churches continues. For example, Christ Church in Eastbourne is feeding 200 people breakfast in its car park; churches in Alston Moor are delivering groceries in a refrigerated van; and St Luke’s in Buckfastleigh has delivered 18 sets of hearing aids among other items. There are wonderful examples of what the Church is doing, and no doubt that is happening in South Holland and the Deepings as well.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Commissioners are taking to review the clergy discipline process. [902791]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

I recognise my hon. Friend’s experience in dealing with these difficult issues. The operation of the clergy discipline measure is currently being reviewed, and it is hoped that less serious complaints could be referred initially to mediation or alternative dispute resolution, which would allow complaints to be dealt with more expediently and effectively.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Research has shown that the clergy discipline process leaves many members of our clergy vulnerable and, in some deeply saddening cases, has driven them to take their lives. What steps are the Church Commissioners taking to review these processes and to provide the right mental health support to those clergy subject to discipline, particularly where such discipline arises from a spurious or malicious allegation? Will my hon. Friend reassure the House that the Church Commissioners will provide our clergy with the support they need during the process?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

Our hope is that the proposals under consideration, which I have just outlined, will mitigate the possible detriment to respondents from complaints that may be unfounded. Freeing bishops from direct judicial involvement in disciplinary matters would enable them more easily to offer the pastoral support my hon. Friend refers to. We are also exploring how to supplement ecclesiastical legal aid to support those responding to complaints.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to maintain remote access to church services during the covid-19 outbreak. [902793]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

I can tell my right hon. Friend that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter day sermon was listened to by 5 million people and that the Alexa Church app has had a 70% increase in usage in the last month. Perhaps most notably, “The UK Blessing”, co-ordinated by Gas Street Church, Birmingham, has been downloaded 2.6 million times, and according to the Prime Minister is a sensational singing masterpiece to which he has awarded a point of light.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I warmly welcome the huge efforts going into ensuring that people have remote access to church services, but there are some situations when that is not a substitute for meeting in places of worship with one’s family, so can I urge the Church Commissioners and my hon. Friend to speed up the introduction of small-scale funerals within churches, with social distancing observed, because of the comfort they can bring to people bereaved by this terrible crisis?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I know what a deeply difficult issue this is. The Church will work with the Government on these issues to do safely what my right hon. Friend asks. She will be aware that cleaning in many of our churches is done by volunteers, some of whom are elderly and may have difficulty coming in between funerals, but the point she makes is very valid and has absolutely been noted.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith (Arundel and South Downs) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What support the Church of England provides to hospital chaplains in the course of their ministry to the sick during the covid-19 outbreak. [902794]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in and concern for our hospital chaplains, who have done such amazing work in recent months. The Church works closely with the College of Healthcare Chaplains to ensure support for our chaplains. Anglican chaplains, while being required to hold a bishop’s licence, are actually employees of the trusts they serve, not the Church of England.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Sadly, I was touched by the virus with the loss of my father, and Father John Diver of St Lawrence’s parish in Sidcup was a source of great comfort to him and my family at a difficult time. Would the Church Commissioner join me in recording our gratitude to hospital chaplains and to the clergy of all faiths?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I know that the whole House would want to extend our deepest condolences to my hon. Friend for the very sad loss of his father. What he says about all chaplains is absolutely right, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has himself been volunteering as a chaplain at St Thomas’s Hospital. I thank him very much for his kind comments, which will be deeply appreciated.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What steps Church of England schools have taken to support children and parents during the covid-19 lockdown. [902795]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I would like to thank very warmly and pay tribute to all the teachers and staff in Church schools who are providing teaching and care for children at this difficult time. They have moved rapidly to provide online lessons and resources, and are looking after children of key workers and overseeing the distribution of free school meal vouchers. The Church is also delighted to have partnered with the Oak National Academy to provide assemblies and weekly collective worship.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Here in Cumbria and the South Lakes, headteachers of Church schools—in fact, of all schools—do want to return on 1 June, but of course they see protecting the safety of their school community as their first and primary responsibility. Will the hon. Gentleman make strong representations to the Department for Education about supporting those schools that decide to stay closed for the time being for safety reasons, especially given new Government guidance against schools using flexible approaches for returning pupils?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. In addition to being Second Church Estates Commissioner, I am a governor myself of a Church school, and I actually attended a governors meeting by Zoom early this morning looking at exactly these issues. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will make sure that his comments are fed in. I know that the Department for Education is taking these issues very seriously and will proceed cautiously, as we would all expect it to do.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 19th March 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working on a national volunteer project to co-ordinate the many offers of volunteer help that we have had. In the context of food, we have been working very closely with supermarkets to expand their click-and-collect services to make it easier, where possible, for them to expand their delivery capacity to homes. We continue to work with other groups to identify how we can get food to people at this difficult time.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, midnight

Care homes and other residential settings that have been let down by their wholesale food suppliers are now being told by supermarkets that they will be treated just like any other consumer. Two chickens do not go a long way if they have 136 residents to feed. Will the Secretary of State urgently look into this issue for all residential settings, please?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, midnight

I am happy to look at the specific issue that my hon. Friend raised. However, it is also worth noting that while there has been an increase in demand at retail shops, notably in supermarkets, there has been a sharp fall in demand in the service trade, as restaurants, pubs and so forth find that demand for their services has plummeted. Our understanding at the moment is that there are not issues in the food service supply chain, but I am happy to take up any particular case that he might have.

Break in Debate

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what criteria the Church of England uses to decide when to close a church and offer the building to other denominations and traditions. [901629]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Church opens as many, if not more churches than it closes each year. Parishes may want to focus their mission elsewhere, if the church in question is in a very remote rural location or if there is a very high repair bill. Use for worship by other Christian bodies is generally considered the best use, but there are many other suitable uses.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. In my constituency, we have 24 churches of different denominations, yet the Christian religion is actually the minority. More recently, we have had a huge influx of Romanian citizens who are very keen churchgoers, but they cannot acquire premises. So as the Church of England population dwindles, can churches make efforts to reach out, particularly to the Romanian churches, to allow them to carry on their worship?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for explaining the situation in his constituency, and I can tell him that the use of church buildings by other Christian denominations is considered a very good use for any redundant Church of England church. The normal procedure is that the views of the local Member of Parliament, the local authority and local residents would be considered, so if there are closed churches in his area, he will have an opportunity to get involved in that process.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the hon. Gentleman outline what advice for smaller congregations is in place at this time? Is it his interpretation that the closure of all churches, regardless of size, is optional, or that small congregations can continue to meet, even if they do so in small numbers?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

As my hon. Friend knows, I speak purely for the Church of England in this place, and the Church of England is following exactly the health advice from the Government. I can tell him and the House that while public worship has been suspended for the time being, churches remain open for prayer and in particular for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Self-distancing will be required. Numbers in churches will be kept to a minimum, and no one self-isolating must attend the ceremony. Parishes are being trained in live-streaming services where they can. Wellbeing and mental health resources will be published soon, and churches are of course encouraged to support the vulnerable who are self-isolating and to continue to support food banks and night shelters in particular.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, 10:24 a.m.

In the light of my hon. Friend’s response to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), does he agree that, although churches are not gathering for worship, they still have a vital role to play in meeting the spiritual, emotional and, indeed, practical needs of our communities at this very difficult time? Although they may not be gathering for services and other meetings, churches are most definitely not closed.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I thank my hon. Friend for that important point, and he is exactly right. The Church is much more than just its buildings; it is its people. This is an opportunity for all of us, as Christians, to reach out to others in need—there are many in all our communities—and that is exactly what the Church will be doing over the coming months.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, 10:25 a.m.

As public worship is suspended during the coronavirus crisis, what plans does the Church of England have for a national day of prayer?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for a national day of prayer this Sunday. The Church is particularly keen that all Christians reach out to look after the vulnerable in their communities, as I have just said to my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double). The archbishop has called for people to put lighted candles in their windows at 7 pm on Sunday as a sign of solidarity with what the nation is currently going through.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent assessment the commissioners have made of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s progress on implementing the recommendations in the Bishop of Truro’s independent review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO support for persecuted Christians. [901631]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, 10:26 a.m.

The Church of England is pleased that the Government have repeatedly said they will implement in full the recommendations of the Truro review. The Church is in regular contact with the review implementation team. Promoting faith literacy among our diplomats remains work in progress, but we are reassured by continuing work on that aspect of the review.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, 10:26 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. As the world looks to navigate the challenge of the virus, other challenges clearly remain. Indeed, those challenges can be exacerbated in such circumstances, so what steps is the Church of England taking to work hand in glove with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to tackle anti-Christian persecution across the world?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

I know my hon. Friend takes a strong interest in this important area. The Church is working closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the Department for International Development to develop better religious literacy, and the Anglican communion combats persecution against all people of faith, or of no faith, around the world. The Church would welcome a Magnitsky Act to target sanctions against those who persecute people for their religion or belief, in line with recommendation 8 of the review. Quarterly progress statements on the implementation of the review would also be helpful.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton (Blackpool South) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what marriage and relationship support the Church of England offers to couples. [901633]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, 10:28 a.m.

Almost all couples receive marriage preparation before a Church of England marriage service. Some churches later offer marriage enrichment courses and marriage MOT evenings. The Church is concerned about the fall in marriage rates, as well as about the breakdown of marriages, and a number of churches are taking action to address this issue.

Scott Benton Portrait Scott Benton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, 10:28 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. How does the Church aim to support couples and families in this moment of national crisis, when they are forced to spend more time together and are probably feeling anxious, possibly with several family members unwell?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, 10:28 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that very relevant question. The new marriage and pre-marriage courses released in January are now available online as digital resources that any church can forward to couples in isolation to help them invest in their relationship when they are likely to have more time together, as well as more pressure on them. The pre-marriage course welcomes and is suitable for couples who are not engaged but want to explore what marriage means.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19 Mar 2020, 10:29 a.m.

This is probably something to come back to once we have got past the immediate crisis, but what progress has been made on liaising with the Department for Education on aligning such pre-marriage education with schools’ relationship education, which has now been made compulsory for all young people? Will that tie up?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, 12:09 a.m.

I thank the hon. Lady, who I know takes a serious interest in these issues, for her question. I can tell her that the Church is very keen to work hand in glove with schools in this important area. Relationship education and relationship support has a very important role in our schools so that we have healthy, respectful marriages and relationships throughout our country.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I suggest that one form of marriage support the Church of England might like to get on with is enacting clause 1 of my Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Act 2019, which became law a year ago now and will overhaul marriage registration and allow mothers’ names to go on marriage certificates for the first time since 1832? Can he give us a progress report on whether this is at last going to happen?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

19 Mar 2020, 10:14 a.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that question—he has been very diligent in pursuing this matter for some time. I know it was a particular concern of my predecessor, Caroline Spelman, when she was in this place. I will get my hon. Friend an update on that issue. I will tell Church House about the urgency of the situation, and if he will allow me, I will write to him with specific details.

Environment Bill

(2nd reading)
(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Andrew Selous Excerpts
George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

26 Feb 2020, 1:47 p.m.

I would like to make a little bit of progress. I am conscious of the number of Members who want to speak today.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessors, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), who did a lot of groundwork on this Bill. I should also like to record my thanks to my colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), who has been involved with the Bill from the start.

The Bill is key to this Government’s ambitious environmental agenda. In 2020, as the UK hosts the next climate change conference, COP26 in Glasgow, we will be leading from the front as we write this new chapter for the UK outside the European Union: independent and committed to net zero and to nature recovery. The Government will work to tackle climate change and support nature recovery around the world and here at home, whether through recycling more and wasting less, planting trees, safeguarding our forests, protecting our oceans, savings species or pioneering new approaches to agriculture.

The first half of the Bill—parts 1 and 2—sets out the five guiding environmental principles for our terrestrial and marine environments to inform policy making across the country. These principles are that the polluter should pay; that harm should be prevented, and if it cannot be prevented, it should be rectified at source; that the environment should be taken into consideration across Government policy making; and that a precautionary approach should be taken.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - -

26 Feb 2020, 1:48 p.m.

What action are the Government taking to ensure that carbon offsetting is permanent and long lasting? Greenhouse gases can be in the atmosphere in some cases for hundreds of years, and there is a danger that carbon offsetting could be only temporary, so will the Government look at that point and come forward with proposals on it?

George Eustice Portrait George Eustice
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

26 Feb 2020, 1:48 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Bill contains a number of measures relating to a biodiversity net gain. It includes, for instance, a provision on conservation covenants, which will enable a landowner entering into an agreement to plant woodland, for instance, to have a covenant on that land as part of an agreement that would prevent it from subsequently being scrapped.

Oral Answers to Questions

Andrew Selous Excerpts
Thursday 6th February 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church is taking to support equality for LGBT+ Christians in the UK. [900635]

Andrew Selous Portrait The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous)
- Hansard - -

6 Feb 2020, 10:11 a.m.

Before I answer the hon. Gentleman, I would like to pay a short tribute to my predecessor, Caroline Spelman, who demonstrated humanity, helpfulness and humour, all qualities I will do my best to emulate in this role.

This is a timely question from the hon. Gentleman, in LGBT history month. The Church has worked with Stonewall to produce the “Valuing all God’s children” guidance, which proactively combats homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Feb 2020, 10:12 a.m.

I thank the hon. Member for his answer and join him in his tribute to the former Member for Meriden, with whom I worked on many issues. I totally agree with the comments he made about her and wish her well for the future; I am sure she has a big role to play in the country. However, the comments that he made do not reflect the pastoral guidance that the Church issued in recent weeks, which the archbishops have apologised for and which suggested that sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage fall

“short of God’s purpose for human beings.”

Does he recognise the great deal of concern within the Anglican communion that this potentially pre-empts the Living in Love and Faith discussions, which are ongoing, and sends a message of non-inclusivity at the start of LGBT history month, which is greatly regrettable?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman will probably be aware that the archbishops issued an apology for the way that that pastoral statement was issued. He is aware of the Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith project, which is looking very closely at all these issues and will be reporting later this year.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what representations Church authorities have made to (a) the Department for Transport and (b) HS2 Ltd on the exhumation of graves on the site of the old church of St Mary's, Stoke Mandeville. [900636]

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
- Hansard - -

6 Feb 2020, 10:12 a.m.

I recognise the sensitivities in this issue and I can tell my hon. Friend that an agreement has been reached between the Secretary of State for Transport and the Archbishops’ Council about the exhumation of graves and the reburial of remains in consecrated ground. I can assure my hon. Friend that this will be done with dignity and respect.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6 Feb 2020, 10:13 a.m.

My constituent Mrs Bradley’s great great grandfather is buried at St Mary’s, Stoke Mandeville, and she was very distressed to learn by accident that the graves were to be exhumed by construction work linked to HS2. How will the Church of England monitor this to ensure that the exhumations are carried out in the way that my hon. Friend has just described, even on deconsecrated land?