HC Deb 08 December 1986 vol 107 cc13-4
25. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what information he has as to the number and proportion of clergy who are in receipt of family income supplement.

Sir William van Straubenzee

The commissioners do not have that information because it is a private matter between the person concerned and the DHSS.

Mr. Bruinvels

In paying tribute to the DHSS, which certainly looks after some of the rather poor-off members of the clergy, may I ask my hon. Friend first to compile a list of those who really are in financial difficulty? I would have thought that that should be easy to do. Secondly, will he look again at the role of expenses and the very worrying fact that many expenses are no longer being met in full by the Church Commissioners? Will he encourage the Church Commissioners to pay those expenses, because all clergymen have an onerous task? They must spend much money on hospitality and on the other duties that they perform as clergymen and they should not have to pick up the tab for it.

Sir William van Straubenzee

Dealing first with expenses, I have already given my hon. Friend the figures in relation to incumbents. In respect of assistant curates, 16 per cent. of the expenses that they incurred overall have not been reimbursed. This is too high. This is essentially a parish matter and it is being followed vigorously by the Church Commissioners by way of precept and example, in the sense of leaflets and so on, of which I will gladly send my hon. Friend an example. On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, one hesitates to interfere in personal matters just because a man is an assistant curate. Since the greater weight and emphasis has been placed on the salaries of the lowest paid, with a 67 per cent. increase during the past five years, as opposed to a 51 per cent. increase for incumbents, it must have moved a considerable number of men out of the lower brackets in which FIS is payable.

Mr. Frank Field

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that no one in the House is asking him to collect information or to name the individuals in the Church who are poorly paid? But since the Government collect and collate FIS data according to industrial classification, will he ask for that information in relation to the Church and publish his findings?

Sir William van Straubenzee

Of course, I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. The weighting given to increases for assistant curates in comparison with the better paid must mean that considerably fewer of them are eligible for FIS. He and I will welcome that trend.

Forward to