Don't scratch, warns bishop

02 November 2006

SCRATCH CARDS are damaging not just to individual lives but to the world, the Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, said in the House of Lords last week. He linked the bad example of wealthy individuals with the bad example of wealthy nations.

"Do not those who buy scratch cards with impunity, because they have enough money, have a responsibility for those who buy them with disastrous effects? Do not those who draw profits from the sale of scratch cards also have some responsibility for those who suffer so much as a result?"

 Being able to afford debt was no answer. The most indebted nation in the world was also the richest, he said.

"That indebtedness has major long-term consequences for the lives of the rest of us. "Planetary debt follows from national debt follows from personal debt."

Debt "as an attitude and a way of life has the profoundest effect on our attitude towards the universe we inhabit", he said. "We regard the universe as an essentially unsecured and never-to-be-repaid floating loan, on which we can draw in our generation at will and expect never to have to repay."

There were signs this week that the anti-debt message was being heard. The British Banking Association released figures showing that, last month, credit-card-holders paid back a net £40 million, the first time repayments had outstripped borrowing for a decade.

But Keith Tondeur, director of the Christian charity Credit Action, said: "It is good news for the few who have realised the situation, but it is an alarming sign for the country. People are beginning to realise the extent of their debt. Some may be able to act, but some will be too far gone to avoid bankruptcy."

 Matt Barlow, the operations manager for Christians Against Poverty, said: "I don't think it signifies a big change. It is not so much that people are paying back a lot of credit as that they have not spent as much as before."

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