Welby joins think tank's quest for economic justice

25 November 2016

LAMBETH PALACE

Economic justice: Archbishop Welby at the Churches Mutual Credit Union launch, last year. While sitting on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards he quizzed executives about creating a "moral culture"(News, 22 February, 2013)

Economic justice: Archbishop Welby at the Churches Mutual Credit Union launch, last year. While sitting on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards he quizzed executives about creating a "moral culture"(News, 22 February, 2013)

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has joined a left-leaning think-tank’s mission to “rewrite the rules for the post-Brexit economy”.

As a member of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR’s) Commission on Economic Justice, Archbishop Welby will help to produce proposals that will “restore justice to the heart of our economy”. He joins 22 commissioners, including the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, and the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Charlie Mayfield.

In a statement released at the launch last week, the Archbishop said that the Commission was a “unique opportunity to reflect on the vision for our economy for the next 20 years and, in a time of significant change and uncertainty, seek to put our economy on a foundation of values and virtues”. He hoped that it would lead to a “tangible and hopeful set of recommendations, that go beyond party politics and make the case for an economy that delivers for the common good”.

The IPPR Commission is a cross-party group that includes business leaders, economists, and community activists. At the launch, a community organiser for Tyne and Wear Citizens, Sara Bryson, described how cheese had become a currency on one Newcastle estate, and how a “low pay, no pay” labour market left children growing up in poverty.

Business representatives on the panel acknowledged the need for change. Helen Morrissey, who chairs the Investment Association, said that recent popular votes signalled a “second wave of anger about the financial crisis”. There was a need to “focus on more radical change, not incremental change”. She would work on proposals to reform corporate governance with Ms O’Grady.

There was a defence, too, of capitalism. The chief executive of Siemens UK, Juergen Maier, said that profit had become a “very negative word, a very dirty word”, but that “globalisation and capitalism, as long as its responsible, is the route to greater living standards”. An entrepreneur at the technology firm LocalGlobe, Grace Gould, was concerned by “anti-globalisation, anti-immigration rhetoric”, and argued that “innovation and serendipity is accelerated when people and borders are open.” But she warned that technology, unless harnessed for "inclusive growth", had the potential to result in “deep inequality”, as jobs were lost to automation and Artificial Intelligence

The director of the IPPR, Tom Kibasi, said that the goal of the Commission was “an economy built on strong foundations of virtues, and values that works to build the common good”.

A report published to coincide with the launch — Out of Shape: Taking the pulse of the UK economy — noted that half of all UK households had seen no meaningful improvement in their incomes for more than a decade, and that no region, apart from London and the south-east, had seen GDP per head recover to its pre-crisis peak. www.ippr.org/publications/out-of-shape

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