HC Deb 28 January 1958 vol 581 cc326-8

9.36 p.m.

Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

I beg to move, That the Church Funds Investment Measure, 1957, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. The Motion deals with a Measure, passed by the Church Assembly, entitled the Church Funds Investment Measure, 1957. That Measure arises from the need which has been felt since the end of the war to simplify and facilitate the administration of the very numerous church moneys scattered about in the country, some in the hands of dioceses and even down to parish level.

The present scheme is modelled on that which was reported on in 1945 by a Financial Commission of the Church Assembly and it bears a close resemblance to the Universities and Colleges Trust Act, 1943. I want to make it clear to those who have not read the explanation furnished by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament that the moneys with which this Measure deals have nothing whatever to do with the invested funds of the Church in the hands of the Church Commissioners, which are under Parliamentary control. It deals with all the other diverse funds held under numerous and different trusts.

Broadly speaking, the scheme is permissive; there is no compulsion upon any of the trustees in charge of these funds to use the Central Board of Finance of the Church, as this Measure empowers them to do. Under the scheme the Central Board will set up two funds—a Deposit Fund and an Investment Fund. Those who wish to use the Deposit Fund will pay their money into it and will receive a rate of interest, permanently, to be negotiated between themselves and the Central Board of Finance. When they wish, and with proper notice, they will be entitled to withdraw from the fund the same amount of money as they put in, no more and no less. It is envisaged that the kind of use which will be made of that fund is where it is not so much a question of receiving a substantial income as a question of the conservation of a fixed amount of capital.

One of the differences between the Investment Fund and the Deposit Fund is that the securities in which investment is permitted are quite wide. In the Deposit Fund they are closely restricted to those laid down in the Measure, whereas in the Investment Fund the managers, the Central Board of Finance, will be able to invest in any good thing which their financial advisers commend to them, including equities.

The investor also, having given due notice, will be entitled to withdraw that money, but he will have no absolute right to withdraw precisely the amount of capital he put in. He will have rights, broadly speaking, similar to the rights enjoyed by an investor in a unit trust system, rights which are more particularly and in great detail—I shall not go into them now—set forth in the Schedule to the Measure. The details of the scheme are fully described by the Ecclesiastical Committee and by the Legislative Committee of the Assembly in its explanations to the Ecclesiastical Committee.

I believe that this is a reform very long overdue. It will be of advantage to trustees, in some cases nowadays somewhat harassed trustees of small funds, throughout the country. The Measure will enable them to avail themselves of expert central management, carried out by the Church itself, with expert advice. Advantage will accrue to all trustees who see fit to use the Fund.

The Measure passed through all its stages in the National Assembly of the Church of England in 1957, and a vote was not challenged on any occasion. I have no hesitation in commending it, in the form it appears on the Order Paper to the approval of the House.

9.41 p.m.

Mr. Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) has put the matter very clearly and I need say no more.

Question put and agreed to.