Church Commissioner Questions: Tributes, climate change, archbishops, reconciliation, telecommunications, thefts, women in prison, marriage, digital evangelism

On 31st October 2019 Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman answered questions from MPs for the last time as Second Church Estates Commissioner. Tributes were paid to her, and questions were answered on climate change, archbishops, reconciliation, telecommunications, thefts, women in prison, marriage, and digital evangelism. This was also the same day that the Speaker and his Chaplain were due to retire. A full transcript follows:

Church Commissioners

The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Climate Change: Investment in Companies

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): What progress the Church of England has made on holding the companies in which it invests to account on climate change. [900272]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman): Since this is my last set of oral questions, I would like to record my heartfelt thanks to my small team of staff, and especially my constituency secretary, who has faithfully served me for 20 out of 22 years. We often forget that our staff are on the frontline of much of the abuse that we receive, and I want to record my admiration for their fortitude. I also thank the amazing staff I have had to support me in this role, particularly Simon Stanley at Church House.

In tribute, Mr Speaker, I thank you for your kindness and courtesy—unfailingly so, and especially at times of personal duress. I single out your inspired choice of Speaker’s Chaplain, who has enriched the spiritual life of this place—but more of that later.

The Church of England Pensions Board has tabled a shareholder resolution ahead of the annual general meeting of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, on 7 November this month. It asks BHP to suspend its membership of trade associations that are not lobbying in line with the climate change agreement. This is just the latest example of the Church Commissioners using their shareholder position to change company policy in line with the climate change agreement.

Michael Tomlinson: Just as much as you will be missed, Mr Speaker—tributes are being paid to you—I know that my right hon. Friend will also be missed. This is her last set of questions and it is a pleasure to ask her about eco-churches. Last year, Salisbury became the first diocese to be awarded the status of eco-diocese. Ten churches in my constituency have signed up to the project. Will she tell the House what more the Church can do to help to tackle climate change?


Archbishops of Canterbury and York: Workload


Community Reconciliation


Telecommunications: Use of Churches

Dame Caroline Spelman: I am not sure what can be said in answer to that, but hon. Members present will know with what great affection my right hon. Friend is held, affectionately known by most of us as Dessie. There is no one I would rather entrust my life to in a tight spot than this remarkable, brave individual.

Thefts from Churches


Marriage: 16 and 17-year-olds


Digital Technology: New Congregations