Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has sparked outrage from the political right after he condemned the Government’s widely criticised Universal Credit system, and blasted companies like Amazon for not paying enough tax.
Mr Welby, who has a long history of opposition to Tory welfare policies, received a standing ovation from delegates at the TUC Congress in Manchester when he launched a stinging attack against the Tory benefits system and sided with unions in condemning the so-called gig economy.
The Archbishop also blasted multi-national companies like Amazon and Google, who he claimed have “leached off the taxpayer” and “get away with paying almost nothing in tax”.
In an answer and question session after his speech, Mr Welby told delegates: “It (Universal Credit) was supposed to make it simpler and more efficient.
“It has not done that. It has left too many people worse off, putting them at risk of hunger, debt, rent arrears and food banks.
“When Universal Credit comes into a local area the number of people going to food banks goes up.
“What is clear is if they cannot get it right they need to stop rolling it out.”
During his speech, Mr Welby condemned companies who do not pay their fair share in taxes. “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 to that community.”
He added: “I was in business, and I know that, within limits, it’s right and proper for people to arrange their tax affairs, and for companies to do so.
“But when vast companies like Amazon, and other online traders, the new industries, can get away with paying almost nothing in tax, there is something wrong with the tax system.
“They don’t pay a real living wage, so the taxpayer must support their workers with benefits; and having leached off the taxpayer once they don’t pay for our defence, for security, for stability, for justice, for health, for equality, for education.”
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. https://t.co/e18dpD9SEX— Ben Bradley MP (@bbradleymp) September 12, 2018
Mr Welby continued: “Then they complain of an undertrained workforce, from the education they have not paid for, and pay almost nothing for apprenticeships. Those are only a fraction of the costs of aggressive tax management.
“Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that the gig economy is the only reincarnation of oppression of the vulnerable in employment.
“Pensions are just one example of the profit motive leading to the weakest being given the most risk and the strongest the most protection.
“In these areas, and in employment rights, and in many others, we see that where inequality and profound injustice seem entrenched, insurmountable, it leads to instability in our society: divisions between peoples, and vulnerability to the populism that stirs hatred between different ethnicities and religious groups, the rise of ancient demons of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia.”
In response to his comments, Tory MP Philip Davies suggested the Archbishop “removes his dog collar and puts on a Labour rosette”.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “We pay all taxes required in the UK and every country where we operate.”