HC Deb 29 June 1998 vol 315 cc15-6
35. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth)

What is the value of the commissioners' assets invested abroad. [46351]

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

The commissioners have £350 million invested in overseas equities, representing approximately 10 per cent. of their total assets.

Mr. Jenkins

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. As he must be aware, newspaper reports in recent months have shown quite heavy losses in the far east. What is the extent of those losses to the Church's holdings? Will he take a message from me to the Church Commissioners? Will he remind them of the old adage, "In God we trust. Others pay cash"?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his supplementary question. In 1997, a total return of 10.6 per cent. was achieved on overseas equities, which compared favourably with the UK pension fund universal return of 7.5 per cent. That result has contributed to the commissioners' overall performance, which placed it in the top 1 per cent. when compared with other UK pension funds.

In relation to the far east, we are all aware that we live in a global economy, and one with a thatched roof. If there is a fire in the far east Asia part of the roof, it has some impact. However, I am happy to say that the impact on the Church Commissioners' money has been very limited. Our assets have moved from £2.1 billion in 1992 to £3.5 billion in 1997.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

After a bad experience quite a long time ago, have not the Church Commissioners done a remarkable job in the past few years? Should we not all be pleased about the turnaround in their fortunes, which is a great tribute to the integrity and effort of the people who look after the money for them? Will the hon. Gentleman—just to reassure the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins), who clearly does not understand—confirm that a portfolio of that size, by its nature, has to be invested throughout the world? I am sure that the Church Commissioners have taken whatever steps they need to take to respond to the crisis in the far east.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, which will be greatly welcomed by the Church Commissioners and their staff, who spend an enormous amount of time investing £3.5 billion. The valuation loss from our far eastern equities has been proportionately minor compared with those of other institutional funds because of our relatively low exposure to those areas.

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