§ 18. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)(Con)
Pursuant to his oral answer of 28 June, Official Report, columns 18–19, on parish priests, how vocations day contributes to the recruitment of rural parish priests. 
§ Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell)
As an aside, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, as the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is still in the Chamber, may I say how much we shall miss him in our part of Question Time? John Keats wrote the line,Just for a handful of silver he left us"—
§ Sir Stuart Bell
I am very grateful for that correction. Hansard will also be grateful. We miss the hon. Member for Lichfield in relation to Lichfield cathedral and other Church matters, and hope that he will soon be back among us.
On the question put by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), vocations Sunday gives the Church the opportunity to encourage everyone to reflect and discover their God-given call, and resources are provided for dioceses to help in that process.
§ Miss McIntosh
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. I know that he shares my concern about the number of rural priests who are approaching retirement. Has he given any more thought to that problem? Mindful of the fact that we have had a particularly harsh summer, with bad weather affecting rural farmers, which has put more pressure on parish priests, how can vocations Sunday help and what specific emphasis are the priests giving?
May I also ask the hon. Gentleman to join me in congratulating the Archbishop of York in giving such a magnificent lead, in proposing to return to what should be the ultimate ministry—rural parish priesthood?
§ Sir Stuart Bell
The Archbishop of York has rendered a signal service to the Church over many years. He will be sadly missed in his role as archbishop, but I am sure that his continued search for the salvation of souls through the parish church is most welcome.
On the hon. Lady's point about the number of parish priests in rural areas, she will be aware that the majority of clergy now entering the stipendiary ministry have had previous careers. They are therefore likely to have family commitments and limits on their mobility. In addition, they may wish to minister in a setting that is similar to that from which they have come. That is, of course, a broad generalisation, but it helps to explain why rural dioceses sometimes find it more difficult than others to attract stipendiary clergy.
On the hon. Lady's first question, the recent feedback suggests that, following the initiatives that I have announced, a number of men and women have been encouraged to explore a call to ordination in rural parishes and elsewhere with their local clergy, vocation advisers and diocesan directors of ordinance.