We should find out what poverty levels are among retired clergy. Some of the clergy were late joining and therefore have not built up a sufficient pension fund to give them the income that they need to live off. When they retire, they also have to buy a property. I know they get a mortgage at 0 per cent. interest, but if they have a low pension to start with and have to pay a mortgage, it leaves those who have come late to the service at a great disadvantage. Will my hon. Friend investigate and calculate how bad poverty levels are among retired clergy?
I would rather refer to low incomes than poverty in relation to the clergy. As I told the House on 24 April at column 354 and on 5 June at column 21,
“the Church is reviewing its pension arrangements.”—[Official Report, 5 June 2006; Vol. 447, c. 21.]
The scheme’s cost has been increased by reduced investment returns, new regulatory requirements and increased life expectancy. My hon. Friend’s point is well taken and I will consider it.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that poverty among retired clergy is likely to increase if the Church of England investments that fund those pensions are made on the basis of what is politically correct, rather than what is financially correct?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, in the sense that our investments are properly made and are now at £4.9 billion. We have a proper investment policy—an ethical investment policy which is appropriate for the Church. In my time as a Church Commissioner, since 1997, the assets have increased from £3 billion to £4.9 billion, but of course I would hardly take credit for that.