HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc759-60
40. Ann Clwyd

What recent review the Church Commissioners have undertaken on ethical investment.[27624]

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

The Commissioners' investments have always been subject to ethical criteria and are continually reviewed. The ethical investment working group, set up in 1994, plays an important part in developing the ethical investment policy of the Commissioners and of the Church's two other main central investing bodies, the Central Board of Finance and the Church of England Pensions Board.

Ann Clwyd

As the Church has considerable investment in GKN, which is the parent of a company called Glover Webb, which both manufactures and sells armoured personnel carriers and water cannon to Indonesia, where they have been used against unarmed civilians in peaceful protests, may I suggest that the Church reconsiders its investment in GKN?

Mr. Bell

I am always grateful for my hon. Friend's interventions and we shall take her up on that and have a look at that investment, but I should tell the House that the Commissioners do not invest in companies whose management practices are judged by us to be unacceptable. We have a clear policy in relation to the sale of armaments. Although armaments are avoided, we believe that some investment in the defence industry is justifiable, and the Church generally accepts the rights of nations to defend themselves and to engage in peacekeeping initiatives, and believes in the legitimacy of an indigenous defence industry supplying equipment under Government licence.

Mr. Simon Hughes

When the leaders of the Anglican Church around the world meet this year at the Lambeth conference, will they have on their agenda an agreement about a policy on ethical investment which will bind all the Churches of the Anglican communion around the world in unanimous agreement? If not, will he use his best endeavours to ensure that that is put on the agenda, so that what we do can be acceptable to our sisters and brothers all over the world?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question and I will convey his question to Lambeth palace and give him a response. The ethical investment policy of the Church Commissioners has moved towards a more positive ethical assessment of the companies in which we invest. For example, we seek to invest in companies that will successfully develop their business financially in the interests of their shareholders, but which also demonstrate responsible employment practices and are conscientious concerning issues of corporate governance and human rights. The hon. Gentleman's point is well taken.

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