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Investment Guidance

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 30 October 2014

The investments of the Church Commissioners are the responsibility of the assets committee. They are guided by a professional investment team supported by external advisers and the advice of the Church of England ethical investment advisory group.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I still seek what guidance and criteria the Church Commissioners follow. What is the level of investment income from Church of England investments as regards the overall revenue?

The Church Commissioners have investments of just over £6 billion. From that is generated an annual income of about £100 million, most of which is devoted to clergy pensions, and the rest to helping poorer dioceses across the country, such as Durham and Liverpool, and supporting their mission work. The Church Commissioners are advised by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group. I assure my hon. Friend, and the House, that we take considerable care to monitor any investment that might have an effect in these areas: tobacco, defence, non-military firearms, gambling, pornography, high interest rate lending, stem cell research, alcohol, and genetically modified organisms. For each and every one of those, the assets committee and the Ethical Investment Advisory Group spend hours and hours working to produce detailed policy to try and ensure not only that we do not invest inappropriately but that we use our investments to encourage companies to act responsibly.

I think that the Church of England believes in having partnerships of constructive engagement with the companies in which it invests. Therefore, will the Church Commissioners, first, call for SOCO International, an oil and gas exploration firm in which it has shares, to launch an independent investigation into the allegations of corruption and violence that it has attracted in its dealings with the Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of the Congo; and secondly, explain how this investment aligns with the Christian values of the Church?

I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not give me notice of that question, because had she done so I could then have given her a substantive response. I know nothing of the facts of the investment, but I will make inquiries and write to her.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman should take it as a compliment that the hon. Lady assumed that on this matter, as on most others that are raised with him, his knowledge is compendious.

Sadly, as I keep on telling my constituents, Mr Speaker, I am neither omniscient nor omnipotent.