HC Deb 03 November 1997 vol 300 c18
36. Mr. Pike

What representations he has received regarding changes in funding for clergy pensions. [11771]

Mr. Stuart Bell

The commissioners have been engaged in extensive correspondence with the parishes protection group on a wide range of issues relating to its work—in particular, the proposals for the future financing of clergy pensions. The group has made a number of assertions that the commissioners do not accept, and they have made their position clear to the group. I have invited my hon. Friend to see me about those matters and I look forward to his taking me up on that offer.

Mr. Pike

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he satisfied that the pensions scheme as it is structured is actuarially sound for present and future members and that the parishes are not being asked to bear an onerous burden that they cannot meet?

Mr. Bell

The commissioners' actuaries have confirmed that sufficient funds are available to meet the past service liability for pensions. Future service is a matter for the pensions board and its actuaries, but dioceses are aware of the extent of their liability and are confident that the necessary funds can be raised.

Mr. Wilkinson

Would it not be beneficial for the fund and ease the burdens on it if clergy could be encouraged to continue serving as parish priests or in other capacities beyond the normal retirement age? In many spheres of activity, clergymen even in their early 70s could perform useful functions, perhaps on more modest stipends. As few people are coming into the ministry, is that not the sort of thing that the Church Commissioners should support?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion, which I should like to pass on to others.