§ 30. Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what is the Commissioners' policy towards responsible asset management as it affects housing development on land it owns; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Alison
The Church Commissioners' duty is to their beneficiaries—the clergy. This requires them always to consider the promotion of the housing and other development potential of land through the normal planning processes. The Commissioners seek, when it is consistent with their responsibilities, to make land available for affordable housing.
§ Mr. Hughes
May I reinforce the view, exemplified most recently in the row in Wiltshire, where the Church Commissioners plan to build executive homes rather than affordable homes for villagers and other people, that the Church has two duties: first, to provide the money for its clergy and, secondly, to go not always for maximum profit but for the enhancement and building up of communities and family life? The Church Commissioners can then ensure that they do not make a muddle on this issue as they made a muddle of their investments last year.
§ Mr. Alison
The hon. Gentleman will have digested, even though it has only just been delivered to him, my earlier comment that when it is consistent with our responsibilities, we make land available for affordable housing. But the Church Commissioners are not a housing charity, and they must bear in mind their primary responsibility to maintain the level of stipends for the clergy and, above all, pensions for retired clergy and their dependants.