Mr. Michael Alison, Second Church Estates Commissioner (Representing Church Commissioners):
The commissioners' board of governors and committees meet frequently to regulate all aspects of the commissioners' work. General meetings of the commissioners are held at least once a year to consider the annual report and accounts and the allocation of money. The last general meeting was held on 17 December last year.
Is it not time that the commissioners discussed the abuse of Church property by illegal immigrants for so-called sanctuary? Will my right hon. Friend dissociate himself from the British Council of Churches' recent incitement to its members to indulge in that sort of behaviour, or are we to witness the Church setting out a new immigration policy through a sort of Home Office in Heaven?
The Church Commissioners are involved only indirectly through their financial support for parish churches and incumbents in the issues raised by my hon. Friend. He will know that the right of sanctuary was abolished by law in the 17th century and the commissioners would strongly deplore any pressure put upon incumbents or church wardens to break the law of the land as duly placed on the statute book by this democratically elected House.
If the Church Commissioners had their arms twisted, as did the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to issue an invitation to the Prime Minister to address the Synod of the Church of England, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the offence that was caused to a large number of members of the Church of Scotland when the Prime Minister said that the love of money is the root of all evil, when we see such evil taking place, particularly in the City of London? Before any such invitation is issued to address the Synod of the Church of England, will the right hon. Gentleman, who has a particular long-standing connection with the Prime Minister, ensure that she practises what she preaches?
The hon. Gentleman does less than justice to his fellow countrymen. There are several hundred members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. To imagine that those Scottish arms are so weak that they can be twisted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to force them to submit to an address that they did not want is, with due respect, a mockery. My right hon. Friend made a notable contribution to the important topical debate on the interaction of personal faith and civic responsibility and it was well received by the General Assembly.