HC Deb 10 May 1999 vol 331 cc18-20
37. Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

If he will make a statement on the ethical investment policies of the Church Commissioners. [82616]

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

The Commissioners try to invest in companies that will successfully develop their business in the interests of their beneficiaries, but that also have responsible employment practices and are conscientious about issues of corporate governance, environmental performance and human rights, and are sensitive to the communities in which they operate.

Mrs. Dunwoody

That is a clear statement of their ethics. Does it not follow that the Church will have to take some hard decisions on large companies, especially firms such as GEC? The Church will have to measure its desire for profit against the actions of companies that manufacture arms.

Mr. Bell

The Church Commissioners have £29 million invested in GEC, which has our strong support. However, when it hived off a division making equipment for offensive rather than defensive action, we made a clear statement that we would not take up the new shares in British Aerospace. The Church understands the varied views held by its membership on this difficult situation. As my hon. Friend says, it is clear that wholehearted support for every defence stock would be unacceptable to many Church members.

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