Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th February 1997.
To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the Church Commissioners' projected income for the next financial year.
The Commissioners' projected income for 1997 is £125 million. The Commissioners' investment strategy is intended to enable the Commissioners' funds to grow in line with their liabilities over the long term to give stable and sustainable support to the Church.
That means, in effect, that they are almost bankrupt. The only way in which the Commissioners will increase income is by increasing the crowds going to church, which—referring to the question of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)—will be achieved by returning to traditional services. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with ex-Archbishop Runcie that people want to go to church for traditional services? They do not go to be felt up by someone sitting next to them on the pew but go to have the hand of God laid on them; they go for a good quaff from the communion cup and a good hymn. Perhaps the Church Commissioners should follow the example of football and bring in a few Italian stars and a bit of razzmatazz. That might get a few more people going and putting money on the plate.
The only trouble with the hon. Gentleman's bid for a traditional form of service in the Church of England is that it would unfortunately disbar his ever being invited to take part and deliver the sermon as he represents the shouty-louty tendency in the Church of England's approach. I would be very happy to have the shouty-louty tendency alongside the happy-clappy tendency, but the hon. Gentleman will have only traditional forms of service. By his own proscription, we shall, alas, be deprived of looking forward to his preachment in his local parish church, which we might enjoy.
Surely my right hon. Friend has got it entirely wrong. The shouty-louty hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has demonstrated that he can be inspired and subdued by traditional services. It is only because such services have been abandoned all over the country that we have shouty louties.
I take my hon. Friend's point. There is a vast gulf between shouty louty, happy clappy and the more traditional forms of service—even those including what I suspect is my hon. Friend's heartfelt preference for the occasional use of Latin. Alas, the spectrum is not quite that wide. We shall, however, certainly try to embrace every other form, short of Latin.