HC Deb 30 June 1986 vol 100 cc693-4
22. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what was the cost of producing the most recent annual report of the Church Commissioners; and what was the comparable cost over the past five years.

Sir William van Straubenzee (The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing Church Commissioners)

I will publish in the Official Report the cost in each of the last five years. The cost of the 1985 report and leaflet is estimated to be £27,000. The average cost for the same period was just under £26,000.

Mr. Bruinvels

In congratulating my hon. Friend on the way in which he presents the reports of the Church Commissioners to the House of Commons and on the way in which the reports are produced, and noting the interest in the Church Commissioners—in 1981, there were two questions to them, and in 1985 there were 48 oral and written questions—may I ask him to develop the annual report to include the recommendations and justifiable fears of the Central Board of Finance, which is concerned over the operation of the General Synod, which now costs more than £8.5 million in budgeted expenditure. Does he agree that the Synod is meeting too often and taking on too many responsibilities? Could he include in the annual report some of the major achievements of the Synod and some of the problems, which would justify the belief that the Synod should not meet as often as it does?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I must make it clear that the commissioners have no responsibility for the General Synod. Without discourtesy to my hon. Friend, I believe that it would not be appropriate to comment on that matter, especially as the Synod will meet soon and he is a dishtinguised member of it. As for the annual report of the commissioners, I am happy to say that our administrative expenses are 4.9 per cent. of total income.

Mr. Frank Field

I thank and congratulate the commissioners on increasing the amount of information that they publish in their reports about their activities and the range of their portfolio. As the report is laid before Parliament, am I right to assume that the commissioners are accountable to Parliament? If they are not, to whom are they responsible?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his courteous comments about the annual report. It has received an independent award for the manner in which it explains the commissioners' work. The strict position is that the commissioners are an independent statutory corporation, but with responsibilities to this House and to the General Synod. As the annual report shows, the commissioners invariably consult widely in the Church and elsewhere before taking decisions with social and ethical implications.

Following are the figures:

Cost of the Commissioners' Annual Report and Leaflet
1980 25,900
1981 26,383
1982 24,330
1983 25,823
1984 27,265
1985 *27,000
* Estimate.