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Church Commissioners report to Parliament on metal thefts: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2012, p 6 March 1, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper.
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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Mr. Tony Baldry MP has responded to questions from Parliament about the rash of metal thefts affecting the Church of England.

On 20 Feb 2012 Mr. Baldry was asked by the member for Thirsk, Anne McIntosh (Cons.) “what steps the Church Commissioners are taking to seek amendments to planning laws applying to church buildings to permit a substitute for lead following theft.

Mr. Baldry wrote in response the Church Commissioners “are not taking such steps at the present time. Guidance issued by the Cathedral and Church Buildings Council strongly advises the use of traditional materials.”  However, the Church Commissioners recognized that there were some situations where alternative materials were acceptable “especially for roofs that are not visible or where there have been multiple thefts.”

The previous month Mr. Baldry was asked by the member for Kingston upon Hull North, Md. Diana Johnson (Lab) and the member for North Wiltshire, Mr. James Gray (Cons.) of the estimated costs of metal thefts from churchs.

Mr. Baldry stated on 19 Jan 2012 that “Ecclesiastical, the insurance company that insures the vast majority of churches, reports that last year alone more than 2,500 churches suffered thefts of lead, and that the cost of the resulting claims was about £4.6 million. Each of those claims represents a loss to a local community and a distraction to parishes from using their resources for local community life.”

Ms. Johnson thanked the Second Church Estates Commissioner for his response and added that she knew that members “on both sides of the House are concerned about the theft of metal from churches and from war memorials, and we hope that legislation or regulation will be introduced fairly quickly to deal with the problem.”

She asked whether Mr. Baldry would “confirm that Ecclesiastical has placed a cap of £5,000 on claims against thefts of metal from churches? If that is correct, what is he doing about it?”

Mr. Baldry responded that Ecclesiastical was a private company.  “It has nothing to do with the Church Commissioners. It has to make commercial decisions about the cover that it can provide to churches, and it has clearly taken the view that churches that have had lead stolen from them present a higher risk in regard to actuarial cover. That is all the more reason for us to find a resolution to the problem of metal theft as soon as possible.”

The member for North Wiltshire then rose and asked about the state of Britain’s war memorials on church property.  “I have had meetings with people at the Imperial War museum, who told me that, of the estimated 100,000 war memorials in England today, only 60,000 are recorded. Will my hon. Friend enter into discussions with the Imperial War museum—perhaps in association with the Heritage Lottery Fund—to find not only funding but volunteers, so that we can complete the registration of all 100,000 war memorials?”

The Second Church Estates Commissioner answered that with the coming centenary of the First World War “I am sure that there will be considerable interest in war memorials. In my constituency and elsewhere, parishioners are writing books recording the history of those who took part, and I am sure that the Church would want to co-operate constructively with the Imperial War museum, the War Memorials Trust and any other organisation that sought to ensure that we protect war memorials.”

The theft of lead from war memorials was a “particularly despicable crime,” Mr. Baldry added.

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