HC Deb 14 July 1997 vol 298 cc16-7
37. Mr. Simon Hughes

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what are the policies of the commissioners for maximising the investment income of the Church of England. [6501]

Mr. Stuart Bell

The commissioners are anxious not only to maximise investment income but to maximise the value of the assets themselves. As I said in response to an earlier question, the commissioners' portfolio has been repositioned. Of our stock exchange investments, we have 70 per cent. invested in United Kingdom shares; 10 per cent. in shares elsewhere; 11 per cent. in United Kingdom fixed interests; and a large portfolio of agricultural and other property.

Mr. Hughes

I thank the Minister and take this opportunity to welcome him to his new job and wish him well. The Church of England has performed a minor miracle in rescuing itself from some unwise investment decisions much more quickly than investors normally do. Has it addressed the Budget's implications for its investments and, in particular, the effect of the removal of tax credits on dividends, which must have a severe impact? If that reduces the Church's income, what will it do to persuade its earthly or other masters to take action in its interests in the coming year?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. I have had discussions with the Church Commissioners on the removal of advance corporation tax to ascertain its impact in future years. We may make submissions to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Bayley

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the case of investment in land or in rights over land, such as shooting rights, a body such as the Church Commissioners should balance the maximisation of its income from those assets against other considerations, such as public access to that land?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is always the intention of the Church Commissioners to maximise the value of their investments in relation both to income and to the value of the asset. Clearly, they must reconcile that aim and the impetus of their investments with wider social considerations such as the one to which my hon. Friend refers.