HC Deb 20 April 1998 vol 310 c475
27. Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

What vehicles are available to bishops and how many chauffeurs are supplied; and what was the total cost of running these vehicles, including depreciation, and employing the chauffeurs for the latest year for which figures are available. [37445]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)

Official cars provided for bishops have engine capacities in a range from 1.6 to 2.3 litres. In 1997, the net cost of providing and maintaining bishops' cars was £279,000. Seven bishops use their own cars and are paid a mileage allowance. In 1997, 31 bishops employed full or part-time drivers. The cost of those to the commissioners was £317,000.

Mr. Baker

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that money spent on chauffeurs and very large-engined cars is not regarded sympathetically by people in parishes who see their churches closing and otherwise short of money? Would the money not be better diverted to helping to take the Christian mission to the country at large?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Bishops have a demanding ministry, as he will know, and an increasing work load. The use of a driver can give them valuable extra time and relieve them of some pressure when travelling to and from their many and varied engagements. Several of the drivers also work as gardeners or handymen at see houses, or are part-time.

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