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God, Mammon and morality in the City: Archbishop Justin on 'Week in Westminster'

Saturday 27th April 2013

Speaking on Radio 4 this morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury stressed the implications of Christian ethics for the City of London

The Christian Gopsel has "always had strong social implications" and been concerned with "the common good", the Archbishop of Canterbury said today.

In an interview for Radio 4's Week in Westminster, Archbishop Justin said his main mission wasn't to inject morality back into British business. But he said that how the City of London - which “is so important and so full of very gifted people” – behaves in relation to the common good is a major concern not just for the Church but for society generally.

He added: "In banking, in particular, and in the City of London a culture of entitlement has affected a number of areas - not universally by any means - in which it seemed to disconnect from what people saw as reasonable in the rest of the world."

But the Archbishop said that morality in British business was “in many ways much better than at many times in the past”, pointing to progress on gender equality, sexist behaviour, conflicts of interest and insider trading.

Archbishop Justin also expanded on suggestions for the banking industry which he made during a speech at a Bible Society event in Westminster on Monday last week 

He said creating a professional body for banking along the lines of the General Medical Council was “one approach that’s worth serious consideration”.

“It does seem that when banks have the capacity to have such an impact on the wider economy, that in any other area of life you should say that people need some specific training,” he said.

Reaffirming his suggestion of recapitalising a major bank and creating smaller regional banks, the Archbishop acknowledged that the public has no appetite for putting more money into the banking system. “I’m sure they don’t. I don’t.”

 But he said that "part of an ethical approach is transparency and reality about recognising where you are.”

 Pointing to recent evidence from the Bank of England, he said banks could be carrying a lot of bad debts which are yet to be fully recognised.

 “These are costs, if they are true, that we will have to bear as taxpayers at some point, and the lesson from Japan is that if you’re going to bite the bullet it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.”

On the appeal of regional banks, the Archbishop said: “You get a commitment to your local region and making it flourish. If you’re a long way away from somewhere you have less emotional commitment to that area."

 He dismissed suggestions that developing regional banks would result in “crony banking where regions just look after their own” as “completely absurd” in a modern regulated system.

 Archbishop Justin sits on the Banking Standards Committee, which will next month publish major proposals for improving the UK banking system.



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