§ Mr. Alison
The Commissioners have always managed their investments within clinical guidelines—I beg your pardon, Madam Speaker, I meant within ethical guidelines. In recognition that ethical issues are becoming increasingly complex, we established an ethical working group in October 1994. The group is chaired by the First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Michael Colman, with representatives from the Church Commissioners, the central board of finance, the General Synod's board of social responsibility and the Church of England's pensions board.
§ Mr. Flynn
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Church Commissioners have added greatly to their credibility by their swift action in initiating talks with Shell—because of the Church's investment of £24 million in that company—about its connection with the odious and murderous regime in Nigeria? Can he tell us the outcome of the talks?
§ Mr. Alison
The holding is valued at £29 million, which shows how the portfolio has increased since the hon. Gentleman looked at the figures. We have regular contact with Shell regarding the company's Nigerian operations, and have had for the past two years. We are continuing carefully to monitor Shell's operations in Nigeria. The hon. Gentleman will know of the critical importance of oil income to the Nigerian economy. Overwhelmingly the greater part of Nigeria's earnings from foreign trade comes from oil revenues. Anything that sought to inhibit or diminish the viability and buoyancy of that trade would have catastrophic effects on millions of ordinary people outside the ranks of the Government.