Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The Archbishop of Canterbury launched an extraordinary attack on modern working conditions describing them as the ‘reincarnation of ancient evil’ in a strident speech to trade unionists.
Justin Welby hit out at the ‘gig economy’, under which workers are denied benefits and are paid per job, and at zero-hours contracts which offer employees no guarantees of work.
He also also attacked tax-avoiding online giants, accusing Amazon of ‘leeching off the taxpayer’.
Insisting that Jesus himself had been a ‘highly political’ figure, he demanded an end to the Government’s flagship Universal Credit benefit reforms, saying the changes had heightened the risk of people going hungry.
The Archbishop’s speech at the TUC’s 150th anniversary conference received a standing ovation.
But the astonishing intervention last night drew criticism from Tory MPs including former leader Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of Universal Credit.
More than one accused Archbishop Welby of expounding the views of hard left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell – a man who was named in his speech along with Tony Benn.
Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne, said the archbishop was backing ‘John McDonnell’s point of view’.
Welby attacked tax-avoiding online giants, accusing Amazon of ‘leeching off the taxpayer’
Tory MP Ben Bradley tweeted: ‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’
He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’
McDonnell said the Bishop was not backing any one party but simply ‘telling it like it is.’
In his address the Archbishop took aim at Amazon, which has been accused of not paying its fair share of corporation tax.
Welby said of the gig economy ‘It is the reincarnation of ancient evil,’ he said. ‘Today there are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue.’
‘Not paying taxes speaks of the absence of commitment to our shared humanity, to solidarity and justice,’ he said. ‘If you earn money from a community, you should pay your share of tax.
‘They don’t pay a real living wage, so the taxpayer must support their workers with benefits; and having leeched off the taxpayer once they don’t pay for our defence, for security, for stability, for justice, for health, for equality, for education.’
A spokesman for Amazon said: ‘We pay all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate. Amazon has created more than 25,000 good jobs with good pay and benefits across Britain and we are proud of the work they do on behalf of customers every day.’
The astonishing intervention last night drew criticism from Tory MPs including former leader Iain Duncan Smith (pictured), the architect of Universal Credit
Condemning the so-called gig economy and zero-hours contracts the Archbishop said they were ‘nothing new’.
He also spoke of how he had seen a speech against austerity by Tony Benn, and mentioned John McDonnell’s docker father who, he said, had experienced the gig economy.
‘It is the reincarnation of ancient evil,’ he said. ‘Today there are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue.’
In his speech, he said he did not apologise for straying into politics. ‘The Bible is political from one end to the other,’ he said.
What the Archbishop told the comrades
Jesus was highly political. He told the rich that they would face woes… He spoke harsh words to the leaders of nations when they were uncaring of the needy.
ON THE GIG ECONOMY
There are some who view that kind of oppression of the employed as a virtue… It is simply the reincarnation of an ancient evil.
THE LIVING WAGE
We need genuine living wages than enable people to save more than ten pounds a month.
Pensions are just one example of the profit motive leading to the weakest being given the most risk.
ON UNIVERSAL CREDIT
Universal Credit was supposed to reform the benefits system, make it simpler and more efficient. It has not done that. It has left too many people… at heightened risk of hunger.
ON TAX AVOIDANCE
Not paying taxes speaks of the absence of commitment to our shared humanity.