Young see Branson as a moral leader

YOUNG people can remember fewer than three of the Ten Commandments, according to a survey published today.

However, if given a chance to compile their own contemporary moral code they would rate 'thou shalt not be racist', 'thou shalt care for the environment' and 'thou shalt not drink and drive' among the most important.

Hovering outside their 10 are 'thou shalt not be sexist', 'fiddle taxes' or 'smoke cigarettes'.

The poll of 1,200 people aged between 15 and 35, carried out by Mori on behalf of Radio 1, found that the personalities deemed most appropriate to draw up a revised list of commandments were Mother Teresa, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The most popular secular candidates were Richard Branson (reassuring associations with Virgin), Oprah Winfrey and David Bellamy (beard). They are closely followed by Bob Geldof (currently in the wilderness) and Tony Blair (has a friend called John).

Pop idols U2 and Madonna were considered among the least appropriate.

Although spectacularly weak on 'thou shalt not commit adultery', Prince Charles and Paddy Ashdown were favoured by 9 and 5 per cent respectively as potential late 20th-century moral scribes.

Nearly two-thirds of those questioned felt the younger generation was experiencing a moral crisis, but more than half said the Church had little to offer. Government ministers, the Royal Family and national newspapers were all considered to be poor at setting and upholding moral standards. Schools, doctors and parents were thought to be doing a good job. Fidelity and honesty were more important to women (78 and 76 per cent respectively) than to men (69 and 66 per cent).