Church’s Assets: Historic Involvement with Slavery

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 26 January 2023.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West 9:34, 26 January 2023

Whether the commissioners have made an estimate of the proportion of the Church’s assets that may have a link to a historic involvement with slavery.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church Commissioners have not tried to draw a direct line from historical investments to current assets, given the myriad inflows and outflows over 300 years. Our forensic accountants estimate that investments linked to the slaving activities of the South Sea Company were equivalent to several hundred million pounds in today’s money. That is deeply shameful to acknowledge, and while no amount of money will ever be enough to repair the horrors of the past, the Church Commissioners have decided to invest £100 million over the next nine years in a better future for all, particularly in those communities affected by historical slavery.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Can my hon. Friend assure me that the not disproportionate £100 million will be spent to reduce the shocking persistence of slavery in the present?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The £100-million fund will enable impact investment grant funding and research in response to the findings in the Church Commissioners’ report. An oversight group will be established to help the Church Commissioners shape and deliver that response. Today the Church Commissioners, as award-winning ethical investors, punch well above their weight in combating modern slavery and human rights violations all around the world.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

While we cannot and should never ignore the Church’s historical involvement with slavery, is it not better to focus on the missionary work that churches did over the years, with the spread of the Gospel and the best story ever told: that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner, The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I do not think it is a question of either/or. When the chief executive of the Church Commissioners was on the “Today” programme recently explaining why we have done this, he was contacted later that day by a global majority heritage individual who had stayed away from the Church for 40 years and is now going to come back again. I say also to the hon. Gentleman that full churches do not tend to fall down.