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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Moral energy call for politicians
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams wants to see morality at the heart of politics
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to deliver a speech urging politicians to rediscover "moral energy and vision".

Dr Rowan Williams will also suggest people cannot "simply accept" that decisions made by Parliament are right.

Delivering the William Wilberforce lecture in Hull, the archbishop will defend the right of the citizen to call the state to account for its actions.

The state, he will say, cannot be left to decide for itself what is moral by the general public.

"The Christian citizen cannot in a democracy simply accept in all cases without question that what the state determines through political majorities is right," he will say.

The archbishop's speech will include references to William Wilberforce, instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade 200 years ago.

Giving the speech in Hull, the birthplace of the reformer, Dr Williams will say that people share an "accountability" for the morality of the state.

We are in a disturbing position if, on major issues of public morality, people expect to make a change outside rather than within the electoral system
Dr Rowan Williams

He will also speak of the importance of convincing "those who run things in the public sphere" that there are "human values and ethical norms" which society is answerable to.

"The idea that you can give substance to a common social ethic... is unfashionable and unwelcome."

Political reform

Dr Williams will also refer to the proposed reforms of the House of Lords, following the most recent vote in the House of Commons for a fully elected second chamber which would remove the 26 Church of England bishops that currently sit in the Lords.

"It is important that in our current debates about the Upper House of Parliament we take seriously the role of such a House in offering channels of independent moral comment," he will say.

"Whatever model we devise for the Upper House, it is vital to ensure that it is not simply swallowed up in an electoral system that could remove this degree of moral independence."

The archbishop will add that the "nature and extent of religious representation" in the Upper House is "a bigger issue than the number of Anglican bishops holding seats there" and is not "a marginal question at all in the light of this discussion".


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