Leading article: The City's ethics don't bear scrutiny

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The Independent Online

It is difficult to see why St Paul's suppressed its report into the ethics of the City of London at a time when the cathedral was surrounded by anti-capitalist protesters. Now that the report, commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of the deregulation of Britain's financial sector, has finally seen the light of day, what emerges from its survey of bankers, brokers and traders is a strikingly unattractive picture. Its publication should remove any ambiguity about whose side the Church of England ought to be on in this era-defining debate.

Two thirds of the financial professionals consulted admit they are overpaid and yet reveal that money is their main motivation for turning up to work each morning. They say there is too great a gap between rich and poor in Britain and yet also complain that the financial services sector is not valued for its role in the UK economy. Paradoxes and contradictions leap out everywhere.

The report makes strikingly little capital out of the fact that those in the City believe in God even less than the rest of the population. The idea that banking godlessness might be responsible for the global financial meltdown must have seemed too open a goal for the clerics. The report does underline that what these financial wizards do believe is that the Church has nothing useful to say to them.

The bankers are surely mistaken about that. It was the Archbishop of Canterbury who set out most eloquently in recent times why it was an illusion to suggest that economics can be separated from wider issues of social well-being. Ethics is a state of solidarity with other human beings, as the St Paul's report notes. This is certainly a message the world of finance needs to hear. Pious banking self-congratulation about corporate social responsibility initiatives means little when the system overall enshrines or exacerbates inequalities, continues to pay obscene bonuses, and when the pay of the directors of top companies rises by 49 per cent, as it did last year.

The world of finance requires reform and regulation. What this survey shows is that this will undoubtedly have to come from outside.