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To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what recent discussions he has had with Church leaders in relation to the vulnerability of churches to vandalism.
I have had no discussions with Church leaders on this matter as it lies outside the Church Commissioners' and my own area of responsibility.
In the Church of England, the responsibility for the security of churches and churchyards lies with the individual parish authorities, although the care of individual monuments in churchyards is generally a matter for the family concerned. Advice is available from church insurers, Diocesan Advisory Committees for the Care of Churches and, nationally, from the Council for the Care of Churches. The National Churchwatch scheme also offers seminars on security in churches and the personal safety of those using them.
The view of both the Church authorities and insurers is that the best safeguard for a church against theft and vandalism is for it to be kept open and in regular use. However, the duty to care for and protect our churches should not solely concern the church authorities but the whole community. Realistic prevention lies in good citizenship not taller walls.