Rowan Williams and other Christian leaders launch campaign for tax justice

The former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams helped launch a new Christian campaign for tax justice in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

The campaign, Church Action for Tax Justice, is designed to highlight the urgency of creating fairer and more effective tax systems to provide more funding for public services, in the UK and internationally.

The Palace of Westminster where the new campaign for tax justice was launchedReuters

Lord Williams, who is chair of Christian Aid, said: 'The creation of this new church-wide movement is timely. If businesses really believe – and want others to believe – that what they do builds genuine, shared prosperity in countries that need it, they should be eager to support fairer tax regimes and to play their full part in creating the sustainable infrastructure that such regimes make possible.

'For this, transparency is essential, and it is good that we are already seeing progress in this area. But we can do even better and it is urgent that we do so.'

Ending financial secrecy in UK tax havens like the British Virgin Islands is one of the 'holy trinity' of reforms the movement will pursue, along with changes to the way large multinational companies are taxed.

In addition, the new campaign will call on churches themselves to make more vocal use of their power as investors in major companies.

President-designate of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Michaela A Youngson, joined Lord Williams and former bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, Dame Margaret Hodge and Quaker leader Paul Parker to demand an end to corporate tax evasion, greater transparency and a change to the negative narrative around tax.

In her speech to a packed committee room,Youngson said: 'I hope we can shift the narrative around tax away from it being a dirty word, or a necessary evil, but rather a blessing and a means of all citizens having a stake in a generous society that cares for all.'

Williams talked about an 'unquenchable thirst for more' in the corporate sector, a 'wilful blindness' amongst policy makers and how tax should not be 'an us and them but a recognition of shared goals and mutuality'.

Hodge, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group on responsible tax, welcomed the new initiative, saying that 'there has never been a more important time than today to address issues of tax justice...this is not anti-business but pro fairness...Reforms are urgent, now is the time for tough action'.