HC Deb 31 January 2000 vol 343 cc778-9
31. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, what initiatives the Church Commissioners are taking to make parishioners better informed of their work. [105969]

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

The annual report and accounts of the Church Commissioners are published in April and circulated to more than 1,000 people, including all Members of Parliament, senior officials at diocesan level, those closely involved with church finances and other interested parties. A summary version is circulated to all clergy and receives a wide audience among parishioners through those clergy.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information. Is he satisfied that the Church of England communicates in the most effective manner with its parishioners in this age of the internet and electronic commerce? In short, is the Church into web sites and other new-fangled technologies?

Mr. Bell

In time, the commissioners will have their own page on the Church of England web site. Work is in hand, and we plan to make a summary version of the 1999 report available via the internet. Information about the wider Church is available through the Church of England web site. As well as daily telephone and pager correspondence, we handle a substantial number of inquiries by e-mail.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham)

Given the fuss made by a number of ecclesiastical figures about the content of the dome, has my hon. Friend visited the spirit zone, and have the commissioners found out where it is? Has any tally been kept of the number of clerics who have attended the spirit zone, given the fuss that was made?

Mr. Bell

I have twice visited the faith zone—as it is now known—at the dome. I was there with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church has been greatly inspired by the contents of the dome—both by the Christian elements and by those of other faiths. The dome is a huge joy and achievement; I recommend any right hon. or hon. Members who have not yet done so, to visit not only the dome but the faith zone.

Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

Will the Church Commissioners make it plain to parishioners why they are supplying chauffeurs to bishops at the same time that churches are crying out for investment and many clergy are living on a pittance?

Mr. Bell

The question of bishops' expenses and expenditure is the subject of a review. When we receive the results of that review, we shall share them with the House.