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'Dark times like 1930s': New ABC Welby says parts of UK poor as 80 years ago

'These dark times are like the 1930s': New Archbishop of Canterbury says some parts of Britain are as poor as they were 80 years ago
The Right Reverend Justin Welby 'shocked' that children go without food
'This was something I had thought would have been eradicated by now'
Embarrassing intervention for David Cameron's government

By Steve Doughty
January 30, 2013

The new Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday claimed that parts of Britain are in some ways as badly off today as they were in the 1930s.

In an intervention that would have embarrassed David Cameron, the Right Reverend Justin Welby said: 'Whether we go into a triple-dip [recession] or not, whatever does happen, it's going to go on being pretty dark economically.'

In a farewell service as the outgoing Bishop of Durham, he said: 'Children are going without sufficient food which I found particularly shocking and distressing.

'This was something I had thought would have been eradicated by now.'

He added: 'We are seeing things we thought had disappeared in the Thirties. Not on remotely the same scale but traces here and there.'

Dr Welby, who takes up his new post on Monday, said churches were organising food distribution centres to help those who could not feed themselves.

The warning is likely to remind Tory ministers of the impact of a previous Bishop of Durham, Dr David Jenkins, a fierce critic of Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, who maintained that some schoolchildren in his diocese were without shoes.

His comments also echo remarks made in 2008 by the then Chancellor, Alistair Darling, who came under fire from allies of Gordon Brown for saying the economic conditions facing Britain were 'arguably the worst they've been in 60 years' and would be 'more profound and long-lasting than people thought'.

Government ministers had hoped for an easier ride from the Church of England following the departure of the liberal-minded academic Dr Rowan Williams from Lambeth Palace and the arrival of Dr Welby, who has wide business experience as a former oil industry executive.

Dr Welby is taking the leadership of the Church of England at a time when debate is raging over same-sex marriage and women bishops.

He made clear his determination that the Church of England should move to appoint women bishops.

'It's about finding a way forward for these massive challenges,' he said. 'The Church at a national level has to be outward looking and a body that is engaging, not looking inwards and consumed by its own problems. I am optimistic that we can make progress.'

He added: 'Everyone is aware that there are significant divisions within the Anglican Communion over issues such as how we go about consecrating women bishops and issues of sexuality, and finding the way forward in those issues is a massive challenge.

'The Church is a centre of peace and hope which is completely independent of the circumstances around it so church communities everywhere have to be consciously seeking to be that peace and hope - welcoming and loving, ministering to people, letting them come and experience church life, making it easy for them to do so.'

Bishop Welby will take office following a service at St Paul's Cathedral on Monday. He will be enthroned at Canterbury on March 21.

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