Rich 'should be forced to aid poor'

Rich and powerful people should be required by law to spend some time every year helping the poor and needy, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested today.

Rowan Williams said a return to the medieval tradition when monarchs ritually washed the feet of the poor would serve to remind politicians and bankers what should be the purpose of their wealth and power.



Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme's Thought for the Day slot, he said the Bible made clear it was the duty of the powerful to ensure ordinary people were "treasured and looked after" - especially those without the resources to look after themselves.



"What about having a new law that made all Cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate, or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?" he suggested.



Alternatively, he said, they could walk the town streets at night as street pastors "ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you will find there, especially among young people".



Because the duty to serve would be compulsory, those involved would not be able to claim credit for doing it, he added.



Dr Williams acknowledged that it might just be "a nice fantasy to mull over during the holiday weekend", but insisted that it could bring genuine benefits.



"It might do two things: reminding our leaders of what the needs really are at grassroots level so that those needs can never again just be remote statistics, and reminding the rest of us what politics and government are really for," he said.

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