HC Deb 01 June 1998 vol 313 cc16-7
35. Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

If he will make it his policy to reallocate money currently provided for bishops' chauffeurs. [42024]

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


Mr. Baker

I am disappointed by that answer. Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that many people regard as an affront the fact that £317,000 is being spent on chauffeurs for bishops when poor people could benefit from that money? Would not it be better if the bishops dispensed with their chauffeurs and used the money to help the poor?

Mr. Bell

The two are not mutually exclusive. The money spent on full-time and part-time drivers enables the bishops who make use of those services to work while travelling to their many commitments, both in their dioceses and nationally. The service can also remove pressure, especially as travel, often late at night, is an unavoidable part of a bishop's job. The money spent represents about 0.05 per cent. of the Church's annual running costs.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, if the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Baker) became a Minister in any conceivable Government, he would expect to have a driver for exactly the same reasons? Does not his question represent a Liberal Democrat hypocrisy that we could do without?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's assistance. In fact, seven bishops use their own cars and are paid a mileage allowance. In 1997, 31 bishops employed full-time or part-time drivers, which is hardly a heavy burden on the Church.

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