HC Deb 20 December 1999 vol 341 c521
29. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

What steps he is taking to increase the proportion of Church investments in the world's poorest countries. [101985]

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

The Church Commissioners have a small number of investments in emerging markets but risks are obviously higher in those areas and their duty as trustees constrains them to concentrate on the better established and more liquid markets.

Mr. Prentice

I think I heard my hon. Friend say that the Church had a small number of investments in the poorest countries. That disappoints me. After the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the weekend that Britain will extinguish the debt of 25 of the poorest countries, surely we could capitalise on what the Church did so magnificently with the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

I understand that my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for International Development are to meet Christian Aid and other Church leaders on Tuesday—tomorrow. Would not it be a magnificent tribute for the Church to tell the Chancellor that it was going to re-balance its very large portfolio to benefit some of the poorest countries?

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that Christian Aid and the Church were in the vanguard of seeking to have third-world debt wiped out. We are very grateful that the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed the lead of the Church in that matter.

As far as our investments are concerned, the Church Commissioners are always conscientious concerning issues that relate to not only environmental performance but human rights. We are sensitive to the communities and the countries in which they operate.

Forward to