HC Deb 16 March 1998 vol 308 c948
41. Mr. Flynn

What proposals he has to enlarge the ethical content of the commissioners' investments. [32895]

Mr. Stuart Bell

Implementation of the commissioners' investment policy excludes about 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom stock market.

Mr. Flynn

Can my hon. Friend explain why the Church Commissioners decided to take their money out of MAI when it merged with United Newspapers, on the curious pretext that it did not invest in national newspapers because of potential political bias, but retained investments in Shell, Nestle and RTZ in spite of their questionable record on human rights and pollution?

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend is right. The Church Commissioners do not invest in newspapers, as they do not want to be identified with any political viewpoint or to be associated with unacceptable news-reporting standards. Therefore, investment in newspapers and the companies that publish them is normally avoided. On the overall investment policy of the commissioners, they do not invest in companies whose management practices are judged unacceptable. In addition, we avoid investing in any company if the major part of its business activity or focus is gambling or the production of armaments, tobacco products or alcoholic beverages. So, we have a clear investment policy that applies to all the companies in which we invest.