HC Deb 07 December 1998 vol 322 cc17-8
34. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

What systems are in place for assessing the effectiveness of the Church Commissioners' activities. [61375]

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

The commissioners reviewed their systems in the light of the Lambeth report in 1993 and responded to all its recommendations, including the establishment of an audit committee. They further reviewed their systems in connection with the National Institutions Measure, which establishes the Archbishops Council for the Church of England. They also take account of evolving best practice in corporate governance.

Mr. Hughes

The commissioners' mission statement is to maximise the assets of the Church to support its ministry, especially in areas of need and opportunity. In the coming 50 years, the second half-century of the commissioners' existence, will there be a way of measuring the effectiveness of the outputs—we can already gauge how effective the inputs are—in terms of the number of people who belong to the Church of England and the number who become Christians as a result of the commissioners' efforts?

Mr. Bell

I can give one assurance: I do not think that I will be Second Church Estates Commissioner in 50 years' time. We shall do our very best to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. For the long term, we have set out policy and financial arrangements making us answerable to Parliament and to the General Synod of the Church of England. Our annual reports and accounts, together with the resolutions passed by the commissioners with reference thereto, are laid before both Houses of Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and before the General Synod by its Secretary General.

We have actuarial accounts for only three to four years into the future, but I would hope that the contribution of the commissioners, the Archbishops Council and the whole Church movement will ensure that more Christians, rather than fewer, will be practising in this country in the next 50 years.