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8. Mr. Tony McNulty (Harrow, East): If he will make a statement on Britain's Tomahawk land attack capability. [65531]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Spellar): Following a successful trials firing, the Tomahawk land attack missile entered service with the Royal Navy last December. TLAM represents a major step forward in capability, enabling precision attacks to be undertaken at long range against selected targets, with a minimal risk to our own forces.

Mr. McNulty: Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Royal Navy on its recent display of the Tomahawk capability? Will he elaborate on how that capability fits into a post-strategic defence review defence policy framework?

Mr. Spellar: TLAM offers a potent and credible threat to persuade an aggressor to desist from hostile activity. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Royal Navy and all those involved on having brought that capability into service in only a little more than three years.

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Global Nuclear Disarmament

9. Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow): What steps the Government are taking to promote global nuclear disarmament. [65532]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. George Robertson): We continue to consider further ways in which to achieve progress towards our goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, building on the steps we have taken in the strategic defence review. We keep closely in mind the commitment by the nuclear weapon states to work together for the success of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review process and related issues. I particularly welcome the reopening in Geneva last week of international negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for use in nuclear weapons.

Ms King: Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, as a result of changes announced under the strategic defence review, Britain will not deploy any more warheads on Trident than were deployed on Polaris when it first entered service? Will he also confirm that more needs to be done urgently to promote multilateral nuclear disarmament, and state what further steps the Government are taking to achieve that end?

Mr. Robertson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her commendation of what we have done under the strategic defence review. By reducing the number of warheads per submarine to no more than under Polaris, we have taken a significant step forward, as that is a reduction of 20 per cent. in the number of warheads per submarine. In addition, we have reduced our stockpiles by one third.

We are taking major steps forward, to such an extent that the United Nations Secretary General said that he welcomed the decisions on nuclear warheads that we took under the strategic review. He said:

I assure my hon. Friend that our commitment, together with that of many other nations, to global nuclear disarmament is real. The changes made under the strategic defence review, much of which has not received the favourable press attention in this country that it deserved, will take us a long way toward achieving that aim.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I congratulate the Secretary of State on having at last confirmed that the actual reduction in the number of warheads per submarine is 20 per cent., not 50 per cent. as has sometimes been glibly claimed in the past. Will he acknowledge that, in 1972, the world thought that it had achieved the global abolition of germ warfare and biological weapons, but that, 20 years later, President Yeltsin admitted that, in fact, the Russians had reintensified their biological warfare programmes after that treaty? In the unlikely event of the right hon. Gentleman ever managing to achieve global nuclear disarmament, will he have done anything more than make the world safe once more for all-out conventional warfare between major powers, instead of keeping nuclear weapons where they belong, in the hands of democratic powers and used to deter dictators?

Mr. Robertson: The hon. Gentleman has a weird sense of geopolitics if he believes that all nuclear weapons are

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currently in the sort of hands that he describes. There is nothing wrong with the global objective, to which the Government are committed, of eliminating nuclear weapons on a multilateral basis. Of course, appropriate verification regimes have to be put in place to ensure that those who say that they taking action, whether in that or other areas, are doing so. That is why we have set in motion work at Aldermaston to develop United Kingdom expertise in the verification of the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. That will ensure that, when the time comes for us to enter negotiations, we shall have a national verification capability.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked--

Bishops' Stipends

34. Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter): How much account is taken, when setting bishops' stipends, of allowances paid to some bishops for attending the House of Lords. [65557]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): These payments represent reimbursement of costs incurred, so bishops' stipends are not adjusted because of them.

Mr. Bradshaw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he acknowledge that the system has the potential to create great inequality in bishops' ultimate incomes? Does he agree that it perhaps makes sense to pool the money gained from attendance at the House of Lords and to share it out in a true Christian manner among bishops? In the light of the Government's proposals to change the make-up of the upper House, will there be some sort of review of whether to include representatives of other denominations Christian, as well as those of other faiths?

Mr. Bell: I note my hon. Friend's views, but he will have seen and welcomed the White Paper on the future of the upper House, in which the Government state that bishops make a valuable contribution in the House because of their particular perspective and experience. The Church welcomes the Government's proposal to retain the present size of the Bishops Bench, which they accept is justified. In relation to other faiths, the Church has always insisted that it wishes to be inclusive rather than exclusive, so long as that does not touch on the established Church.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us welcome the presence of bishops in the upper House, and that it is precisely the fact that they represent areas not only within the south-east establishment but elsewhere in the United Kingdom which gives them the ability to transmit not only the views of their parishioners but frequently those of the many different professions with which they come into constant contact?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. She confirms the statement in the White Paper in relation to

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the bishops--that the present representation makes it possible for the Church to ensure that its perspective is represented on all occasions when it would be of particular value. One has to understand that the Church of England is a part of our community throughout the land and that it reflects the views of our people, which are then reflected in the upper House.

Disposal of Freeholds

35. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): What steps the Commissioners take to ensure that freeholds are not disposed of for less than the best available price. [65559]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): The commissioners would normally offer their own property for sale on the open market. When a redundant church is sold or leased, however, financial considerations are not the overriding factor. Rather, the priority is to seek a suitable use for the church. Many different factors have to be taken into account, primarily the architectural and historical significance of the church building, and the views of parishioners, heritage bodies and other interested parties.

Mr. Prentice: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. My interest was triggered when I read Jimmy Hill's autobiography over Christmas. He reminded me that in the 1980s the freehold of Fulham football club was sold by the Church Commissioners for £900,000 to the then chairman of the club, Ernie Clay, who then sold it on for £7 million and is now living somewhere in Portugal. Since then, there has been a move away from property into equities. What is the Church of England's policy towards investing in UK equities, and specifically those companies that provide employment in deprived urban areas such as north-east Lancashire?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's rather wide-ranging question. While he has been reading Jimmy Hill's autobiography, I have been reading that of George Hardwick, the former captain of England and Middlesbrough player whom I see regularly at my football games--although we do not talk about Church matters when we meet in the directors' room at Middlesbrough football club.

It has always been the Church's policy to offer its property for sale on the open market and to get the best price for it. That is a natural part of the Church's duties, and the funds are of course used to provide the wherewithal for the parish priests and their pensions and for the bishops' stipends. As for the policy on the sale of shares and the relationship between property and share investment, we have reduced our shares in property to something like 22 per cent. of our overall investment. The rest is involved in equity. The Church Commissioners always take into account their financial obligations and local constituencies and communities such as those of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland): On behalf of the northern region, I support the interesting idea put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice). I have not been reading autobiographies, but I have been reading the biography of Richard Nixon by

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Jonathan Aitken. I do not think that the opinions of either on bishops would be highly appreciated in the Chamber at the moment.

It would be a good idea to recycle the Church's money far more beneficially than at present to generate jobs, particularly in inner-city areas. The report "Faith in the City" and a report published during the last general election did not receive the attention that they deserved. I fully support my hon. Friend's idea, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Second Church Estates Commissioner will support it too.

Mr. Bell: I plead guilty to having an autographed copy of Jonathan Aitken's book about Richard Nixon. I read not only the autograph but the book.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): It is an excellent book.

Mr. Bell: As the hon. Gentleman says, it is an excellent book.

On the more serious point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) raised, the Church Commissioners have a statutory obligation relating to their investments to provide the wherewithal for the clergy, for pensions and for bishops. We are unable to go beyond that statutory obligation. However, we make it clear that the commissioners should make available land for affordable housing developments in areas such as those that my right hon. Friend has in mind. In the Octavia Hill estates in central London, we provide houses and flats at modest rents.

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