Four in five of the Church of England’s 13,000 parish churches are supporting local food banks.
Three weeks ago, the Living Wage Commission chaired by the Archbishop of York recommended that the voluntary adoption of the living wage by employers could do much to reduce poverty and dependence on food banks. What advice and encouragement is the Church giving to parishes to become advocates and champions in their communities in order to persuade employers to adopt the living wage?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Church of England is committed to paying all our staff the living wage. I hope that that will be an excellent example for employers voluntarily to follow where the Church of England is leading.
We understand the broader concerns about food banks. That is why, together with support from the Church Urban Fund and a number of diocesan bishops, I have been, and I am, organising meetings across the country with the Minister for the Cabinet Office to consider the reasons causing people to use food banks and how, collectively, we can move on from them.
The Church Commissioners have significant land holdings in and around the village of Westbury-sub-Mendip, and only the Church Commissioners can ensure that the villagers have space to replace their 19th-century school, hall and shop. For some years the parish council and other village organisations have tried, unsuccessfully, to meet the Church Commissioners about their social responsibilities in the village. Could the right hon. Gentleman ensure that those discussions now take place as a matter of urgency, because there are pending planning applications on the Church Commissioners’ land?
That is a gloriously ingenious question, but I am not sure whether it entirely follows on from food banks. The Church Commissioners, like any other charity, have a duty to their beneficiaries, who are largely clergy pensioners, in how we manage our investments. We will of course communicate and liaise directly with those who are democratically elected—in my hon. Friend’s case, the local authority—about the appropriate way in which any landholdings we have might be used in the context of the local plan.