HC Deb 20 January 1986 vol 90 cc13-4
21. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, if, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Leicester, East of 18 November, Official Report, column 14, the Church Commissioners have yet made a statement of their policy towards the proposed deregulation of Sunday trading.

Sir William van Straubenzee

The commissioners are very conscious of the view expressed by the General Synod on this issue, which has been pressed so eloquently in another place. The commissioners are drawing this view to the attention of those retail companies in which they are shareholders. They are asking those companies how they feel about the whole issue.

Mr. Bruinvels

I welcome the answer given by my hon. Friend. It is important for the Church Commissioners to declare a view, because they may be considered hypocritical, in that they have £240 million invested in shopping precincts in Gateshead, Ipswich and Glasgow and in many companies that wish to open on Sundays, such as Habitat and British Home Stores. Will my hon. Friend make it clear to the Church Commissioners that, by last week, 16,292 people had written to the Home Secretary expressing concern about Sunday trading? Only 27 of those people were in favour. Does that not show that the public do not want to go to the shops on a Sunday?

Sir William van Straubenzee

The reasons set out by my hon. Friend were some of those that moved the Church Commissioners to take the steps that I have given in my answer. It will be interesting to see what response we receive. I am aware of the immense strength of feeling on the issue. The architect of the Bill was a previous Home Secretary. I think that it was a disastrous misjudgment.

Mr. Frank Field

Would it not a matter for concern if the commissioners had a view on this subject? Do we not have a right to look to the Synod for that view, and not to the commissioners?

Sir William van Straubenzee

That is partly the reason why it is the General Synod's view that has been drawn to the attention of the various retail groups that I have described. I think that from time to time, and on appropriate occasions, the Church Commissioners are also expected to hold views on the matter of their investments, and they do.

Mr. Best

Will the Church Commissioners take into account the fact that in the mid-west of the United States of America and in Scotland, where there has been Sunday trading for a long time, people are not noticeably irreligious? Will they also take into account the fact that the churches are open on Sunday?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I think that in Scotland the situation will be dramatically different if there is no restriction of any kind in England. I do not believe that that will stop at the borders. It will go northwards in a way that people will find unpleasant.

Mr. Ryman

The hon. Member has been asked about the shares owned by the Church Commissioners Do the Church Commissioners own any shares in Westland helicopters? Did they attend the meeting at the Albert hall recently? Which option do they prefer, if any, and which half of the Conservative Cabinet do they support?

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are discussing Sunday trading, but I will allow that question because I am interested.

Sir William van Straubenzee

I hope that I am giving an accurate answer. I shall write to the hon. Gentleman. I believe that the commissioners have no shares in Westland. I am sure that if they had taken part in the meeting they would have been very prayerful before they went.

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