HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 c762
43. Mr. Chope

If he will make a statement on the commission's policy on management of land assets.[27627]

Mr. Stuart Bell

I am sorry to have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Church does not own property in his constituency. The prime responsibility of the Church Commissioners is to manage all the investments entrusted to them so as to maximise financial support for the ministry of the Church of England. Subject to that responsibility, the commissioners' policy is to manage their land assets in a way that takes account of the needs of the environment and local communities.

Mr. Chope

I am grateful for that reply. May I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to a hot issue relating to the churchyard of St. Mary's church in Southampton? It has been a site of worship for a thousand years; there is a Saxon burial ground there. The parochial church council and the team rector propose, however, to develop the churchyard as part of an inner-city redevelopment scheme. That is causing massive local concern. Will the hon. Gentleman agree to receive a deputation from people who are worried about this but who do not seem to have the ear of the team rector?

Mr. Bell

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right to raise a matter of concern to his constituents. The Church Commissioners will be glad to look at any representations he makes and to see what response we can give.