Society needs to look at moral principles and not just the results of focus groups and opinion polls in order to counter the current sense of a "moral vacuum", the Archbishop of Birmingham has said.

The Most Rev Vincent Nichols said he believed more attention should be given to developing a "coherent" moral framework in which to live.

He said: "So often in our society, I think we are beginning to sense that there might be a moral vacuum somewhere and we don’t know quite know how to address that.

"We tend to do this sometimes with focus groups and the other ways of surfacing people’s opinions. But in the eyes of faith there are principles as well as opinions.

"This is true for all the religious faiths because the living of the faith always brings with it a moral framework. For this reason, at this moment in our society, we think there is an important debate to which we want to contribute, about moral principles and moral discourse."

The Archbishop, who is reportedly a front-runner to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor as Archbishop of Westminster, said: "In today’s society we really need to pay much more attention to developing a coherent moral framework in which to live. I think the lack of that is seen in all sorts of manifestations across society.

"The faiths and Christianity have a great deal to contribute to that."

He singled out parents anxious to steer their children away from social evils such as drug and alcohol abuse as in need of such a moral framework.

"I think the dilemmas that many parents feel about how they cope with the ebb and flow of influences over their children and how they help children to fashion for themselves a clear, and a morally-shaped way of life, I think that is widely felt," he said.

His remarks were made as a new project is being launched at Birmingham University bringing together leaders from the six main faiths in the city, academics and other key figures. The Faiths for the City campaign will include representatives from the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslims and Sikh faiths.