HC Deb 16 May 1994 vol 243 cc546-7
29. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what representations have been received about the financial consequences of disestablishment.

Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)


Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of the Church Commissioners the recent Adam Smith Institute report by Adrian Pepper, entitled 'The Consultants' Report on the Church of England', which makes a number of recommendations about how the Church could improve its performance?

Mr. Alison

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his constructive suggestion, and I will certainly pass it on to my colleagues. There is a verse in the book of Proverbs which says: 'in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.' We shall bear that in mind as we consider the multitude of counsels that we receive.

Mr. Frank Field

Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on the fact that if disestablishment occurred, the same group of people who managed to lose £800 million of the Church's assets would still be in control?

Mr. Alison

Disestablishment is a cloud no bigger than a man's hand at present, and may not go anywhere, so the hon. Gentleman's question is to some extent hypothetical. In relation to the £800 million figure that he cited, he will have noted that, in 1993, the value of the assets of the Church Commission increased by £396 million. We are rapidly making good the notional loss which has been recorded in earlier years.

Mr. Harry Greenway

How much of that £396 million was regained from stocks and shares and from the market, and how much from direct giving by the laity? Can the final £400 million be made up in one way or another?

Mr. Alison

If I said £396 million, I apologise. The figure should be £296 million. [Interruption.] Hon. Members will allow me a measure of optimism and a firing-from-the-hip apology for having got the figure wrong.

My hon. Friend asked about the increase in the value in so far as that relates to donations. We are talking entirely about the capital valuation of assets, of which about £190 million represents the increase in assets in the stock exchange security and £100 million represents the increase in the value of property and commercial assets.