The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, has supported the idea that there should be detailed scrutiny of the proposed renewal of the Trident Missile programme.
? ?He backed his call with action: welcoming the Peace and Economic Justice Pilgrimage as it passes on its way from Iona in Scotland to Trafalgar Square through St Albans on 18th July 2013. He met the pilgrims and wash the feet of five of them outside St Albans Cathedral?s West Door. On 19th July, the Pilgrims will travel to Downing Street with Bruce Kent to meet the Prime Minister.
? ?The Bishop argues that when there is real competition for scarce resources, in particular to fund welfare needs for the most vulnerable, the programme cannot simply be rubber stamped or ring-fenced and go ahead without a public debate about priorities and how best to meet them.
? ?The Bishop said: ?The approach at the moment to considering our national budget cannot be to treat the Trident renewal as beyond scrutiny, especially as it is a fifty or sixty year commitment. Welfare reform is necessary, but the underlying principle should be a bias towards the poor. The Peace and Justice Pilgrimage has my support in trying to highlight this principle.?
? ?The Church of England?s Governing Body, the General Synod has called for close attention to the impact of welfare cuts on the most vulnerable and for support for those not in a position to support themselves. Recognising that, in times of austerity hard choices must be made between competing priorities, and acknowledging that reform of welfare systems is essential, the Synod called for a ?renewed settlement between the state, the churches and civil society.?
? ?The Bishop of St Albans was instrumental in giving the motion passed in the Synod teeth: his amendment turned the motion from ?passing a set of aspirations? to calling for action.
??In March this year, in one of three annual Presidential Addresses made to the Synod of St Albans Diocese, the Bishop of St Albans said: ?We all accept that we have to cut public expenditure. The problem is where should the burden of the cuts fall? How much of these further cuts should fall on those claiming welfare (with the worry that this could push 200,000 children into poverty) or should others bear more of the burden? Should we be looking, for example, at the billions of pounds that are going to be spent on renewing Trident??