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Volume 403: debated on Monday 7 April 2003

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Will he make a statement on pensions provision for the clergy. [107087]

Clergy in office receive a stipend and are housed. When they retire, they make their own housing provisions, but they receive a Church pension in addition to their state pension. The basis for determining the benefits provided by the Church—a lump sum at retirement plus a pension takes account of all those factors. The full service pension from 1 April 2003 is £11,013 per annum. The lump sum is £33,039.

What can the Church Commissioners do to reduce the proportion of retiring clergy who have to rely on means-tested state benefit and to improve pension provision for those clergy?

I am not entirely sure what we can do about those who wish to retire early, as that, if I may say so, is their God given right. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the clergy pension scheme is a defined benefit scheme. Many companies are switching to money purchase schemes that, in effect, switch risk to the employee. The Church has chosen not to do so, which highlights its commitment to adequate remuneration for retired clergy. We are also considering how we can increase the pensions for the clergy.