HC Deb 13 March 1978 vol 946 cc25-6

39. Mr. Ryman asked the hon. Member for Kingswood, as representing the Church Commissioners, what was the value of the total assets and income of the Church Commissioners during the last three financial years.

Mr. Terry Walker (Second Church Estates Commissioner)

In 1974–75 the Commissioners' assets were valued at £498 million and their total income amounted to £33.1 million. The comparable figures for 1975–76 and 1976–77 were £620.6 million and £37.2 million and £676.2 million and £42.3 million respectively.

Mr. Ryman

I thank my hon. Friend for that illuminating reply. May I ask him to deal with the following points? Is he aware of the crisis within the Church and the widespread extent of real poverty among members of the clergy today? Is he aware that there are fewer clergy doing more and more work—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman seems anxious to impart more information than he is seeking. If he will ask his question he will get an answer and perhaps we shall get in another Question as well.

Mr. Ryman

May I ask my hon. Friend why the administration of funds by the Church Commissioners is negligent in producing such a small income which causes real poverty among the clergy when many other organisations, such as pension funds, with a comparative capital position, can produce a far higher rate of income?

Mr. Walker

I am pleased to help my hon. Friend. The policy of the Church Commissioners, which has now been announced, and which conforms to the Government's policy of 10 per cent., will mean that the minimum range for incumbents next year will be between £2,900 and £3,250 and £2,100 and £2,580 for curates. That is a significant increase and one which, I am sure, my hon. Friend will feel is helpful to the clergy whom we recognise are in desperate need.

Sir David Renton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the demands upon the resources of the Church Commissioners in recent years have been greatly increased by the extra number of clergy needed because of the larger population? Have not demands also increased because of inflation? Can the hon. Gentleman say what proposals the Church Commissioners have, if necessary to put before Parliament, in order to overcome those two difficulties?

Mr. Walker

Certainly the level of giving on behalf of the diocese has been most encouraging. That has definitely helped the Church Commissioners to raise the stipend level as much as possible. Over the last few years we have been held back by various incomes policies. That is why clergy stipends have not increased as much as we would like.

Mr. Clemitson

Will my hon. Friend raise with the Church Commissioners the possibility—which I have raised before with the First Church Estates Commissioner—of the Commissioners making at least a small amount of their funds available for the development of co-operatives?

Mr. Walker

We have taken that on board and will consider it for the future.