Archbishop of York attacks immigration minister

Dr John Sentamu will say Phil Woolas has made serious allegations about the conduct of lawyers which were not supported by the facts, and express concern over the minister’s "unmerciful" attitude.

He says the minister has been immature in his handling of immigration at a time when the Government should be setting an example to brutal regimes in countries such as Zimbabwe.

Instead it has tried to make political capital out of the issue by "tough-talking" designed to win votes, says the archbishop.

In a wide-ranging critique of British society, Dr Sentamu argues that such cynical tactics have contributed to a breakdown in community and neighbourliness and are "a worrying development".

Consumerism and materialism have become rampant under Labour and have led to the current economic crisis, he says.

In a speech at the Royal Society to be delivered on Thursday evening, Dr Sentamu will urge the Government to find a vision for the country rather than just concentrating on short-term solutions to the recession.

He says that society deserves better than politicians such as Mr Woolas, who recently attacked lawyers representing asylum seekers for "playing the system".

"Speaking as someone without a vested interest and is not a member of any industry to which the honourable member was referring, I would suggest that the allegation that lawyers are undermining the Law is very serious indeed."

The archbishop suggests that Mr Woolas is suffering from "terminal inexactitude" and is ignoring the facts.

The attack from the archbishop follows a string of high-profile gaffes made by Mr Woolas since he took up the immigration brief in October.

He appeared to call for a cap on migration to Britain in a strongly worded newspaper interview, saying he would not allow the population to reach 70 million, only to backtrack the next day.

Mr Woolas then admitted Labour had made a series of mistakes in handling the number of people coming to the country, but was again forced to issue a "clarification" hours later.

He was further humiliated when he was pulled from a scheduled appearance on the BBC’s Question Time debate, and at a public appearance in Manchester he was hit in the face by a custard pie thrown by a pro-migration campaigner.

Mr Woolas has also caused controversy during his brief time in the spotlight by predicting the disestablishment of the Church of England, going against stated Government policy.

Dr Sentamu will claim that the Labour Government has failed to provide a vision for Britain, and that despite growing prosperity society has been allowed to fall apart.

"It seems to me that the poison fruit that has sprouted within our democratic system is that of apathy, disempowerment and a loss of memory of our history, culture and tradition," he will say.

"It is a lack of interest, or boredom borne not only of material excess, where consciences have grown so fat on consumption that they ceased to function but also through a lack of shared big picture. The lack of a bigger vision to hold us all together.

"Whilst we have all benefited from the economic progress of past decades the consequences of rampant consumerism and individualism – both economic and social – have been to eradicate the glue that coheres communities together."

Dr Sentamu will also argue that Government policy and the legal system in Britain takes no account of morality or of the Christian imperative to love one’s neighbour.

He is to cite the example of a seriously ill Ghanaian woman, Ama Sumani, who in 2006 was deported from the UK back to her home country because her visa had expired, and who later died because she could not afford treatment.

"Sadly, the separation of religion, morality and law has gone too far, leading to such dire unintended consequences," the archbishop will say. Source: The Telegraph (UK)