HC Deb 13 March 1995 vol 256 cc555-6
23. Mr. Flynn

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what new proposals he has to improve the ethical accountability of the investments made by the commissioners.

Mr. Alison

The commissioners have always managed their investments within ethical guidelines. Specific rules were developed when equity investment was begun in 1948 and those rules continue to be monitored and reviewed. I am arranging for a leaflet setting out our ethical policy to be sent to the hon. Gentleman so that he may study it slightly more fully.

Mr. Flynn

Why have the Church Commissioners invested £1.75 million in GEC, Britain's second-largest arms manufacturer, which exports weapons of war to many foreign dictators? Recalling the words that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword, will the right hon. Gentleman explain to the House how profiteering from the sale of arms assists the work of the prince of peace?

Mr. Alison

The hon. Gentleman will note, when he gets the little leaflet that I shall be sending to him, that we do not invest in companies whose principal business is armaments. I do not think that it could be alleged that GEC's principal business is that of armaments. As it is, investments relating to armaments, alcohol, gambling and tobacco, from which we are excluded on ethical grounds, already result in the disbarring of the Church Commissioners from about 12 per cent. of potential investments in the stock exchange, which has a serious effect on the potential flow of funds for clergy stipends and retirement pensioners.