Nearly half the clergy latterly surveyed stated that their standard of living was equivalent to or above that of the majority of households in their parish. By way of a statement, the average stipend increased by 25 per cent. between 1999 and 2005, compared with an increase of 16 per cent. in the retail prices index and 27 per cent. in average earnings.
Does my hon. Friend really believe that a parish vicar’s pay is substantial, given that a vicar must look after their family and will need a house at the end of their service? The pension should meet the number of years that a vicar has put into the Church in order to provide for quality of life.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for relating his question to pensions. As I told the House on 24 April, the Church is reviewing its pensions arrangements. On the stipend, he will be aware that most clergy are provided with housing, including the payment of their council tax, water charges, maintenance, external decoration and insurance, and a non-contributory Church pension. There is no such thing as a parish priest who is as poor as a church mouse.