Carey attacks social ills of joblessness

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The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a hard-hitting speech on the social ills of unemployment yesterday. Speaking at a conference on joblessness in London, Dr George Carey said church leaders had "a right and duty" to speak out on such problems as the "spiritual exclusion" of unemployment.

He explicitly praised the Labour government's inquiry into Britain's underclass, but warned the new administration against slavishly following economic dogma.

Dr Carey also spoke of the "excesses of one-eyed monetarism in the 1980s" to an audience that included the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

It came just two days after he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury to address the TUC conference in Brighton, where he said employers had a "moral responsibility" to recognise unions.

"We all need to be needed," he said. "Dignified work is about participating in the common life, about making a useful contribution to our fellow citizens, about being part of a community of work, even about fulfilling a part of our humanity. That is why, as Archbishop William Temple pointed out, the worst suffering of unemployment lies not in its material deprivation but in the spiritual deprivation of exclusion from contributing to the common life of society."

Yesterday Dr Carey officially received an ecumenical report into unemployment commissioned by the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland and published during the general election campaign.

"The churches have a right to speak out about it, both because our beliefs about the nature of humanity and because we are present in every part of this land, including those from which most other institutions have departed," he said.

Dr Carey was "delighted" with the Cabinet Office's new inquiry into social exclusion. "It is courageous and right deliberately to raise expectations in this way and make it a touchstone for the long-term success of government policies," he said, adding: "First, no doubt there will be some who will greet this as `once again the Church is getting embroiled in politics'.

"If by that they mean taking our place in the affairs of life, caring for people and seeking to ensure that others have the rights and privileges they deserve as children of God, then we plead guilty. If they mean that we are dabbling in party politics, they are wrong because what this inquiry is about transcends us all and calls all people, regardless of political and religious affiliation, to tackle the curse of unemployment."

Later, the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe accused the Archbishop of "proselytising for the socialists". Miss Widdecombe, who converted from the Anglican Church to Roman Catholicism, told PA News that Dr Carey seemed "wholly unaware that the Tories' unemployment record was the envy of the rest of Europe, and particularly in the field of youth unemployment. It is significant that he never gave any credit for this".