Archbishop of Canterbury's comments provoke response from British government

June 10, 2011

London, June 10 (ENInews) -- In a strongly-worded opinion piece in the
June 9 issue of The New Statesman, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan
Williams, took a stand against recent economic, criminal justice, and healthcare
reforms proposed by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Williams, launching his broadside as guest editor of the weekly journal,
said Britain's coalition government is forcing through "radical policies for
which no one voted." He questioned whether democratic legitimacy existed
for flagship policies on welfare, health and education, which we he said
were causing "anxiety and anger." He also dismissed Cameron's "Big Society"
initiative for the voluntary sector to play a greater role in providing
services as "painfully stale" and condemned what he described as punitive action
against alleged abuses of the benefit system.

Cameron rejected Williams' criticisms, which have divided opinion among
many Christians. In response to the Archbishop's comments, Cameron told
reporters in Belfast before addressing the Northern Ireland Assembly that he
profoundly disagreed with many of Williams' views, particularly on debt,
welfare and education. He could see nothing "good or moral" in passing national
debts to the next generation, trapping people on welfare or in poorly
performing schools.

Pensions Minister Duncan Smith, whose welfare reform proposals seek to
offer incentives to work rather than live on benefits, said the government had
inherited a system that leaves people abandoned in a record number of
jobless households and damages those it seeks to save. 

Two Anglican bishops, Christopher Hill and Tim Stevens, have come out in
support of Williams, but Giles Fraser, Canon of St Paul's Cathedral, asked
whether the Archbishop had the right to question the democratic legitimacy
of the coalition while accepting the way church appointments were made. Some
MPs have used Williams' comments to argue that unelected bishops should
not be appointed to the House of Lords, and removed when reform of the upper
chamber was finally complete.