Lord Carey backs benefits reform
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has thrown his weight behind the Government's plans to introduce a £26,000 benefits cap, arguing the current welfare system is rewarding "fecklessness and irresponsibility".
Criticising opponents of the annual benefits limit, which include a group of Church of England bishops, the cleric said the scale of Britain's public debt was the "greatest moral scandal" facing the country.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Lord Carey said: "If we can't get the deficit under control and begin paying back this debt, we will be mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren. In order to do this, we desperately need to reform our welfare system."
The Government has vowed to implement its Welfare Reform Bill "in full" despite a stinging parliamentary defeat in the House of Lords that saw a record rebellion among Liberal Democrat peers.
The revolt was led by Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, who tabled a successful amendment calling for child benefit to be excluded from the cap. It was backed by a majority of 15, including four other senior church bishops.
Hitting out at his fellow clerics, Lord Carey said: "Considering that the system they are defending can mean some families are able to claim a total of £50,000 a year in welfare benefits, the bishops must have known that popular opinion was against them, including that of many hard-working, hard-pressed churchgoers. Yet these five Bishops - led by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds - cannot lay claim to the moral high-ground. The sheer scale of our public debt - which hit £1 trillion (on Tuesday) - is the greatest moral scandal facing Britain today."
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith claims the planned £500-a-week cap on benefit payments will save around £600 million towards deficit reduction and ensure workless households cannot receive more than the average working family.
Lord Carey backed the Tory minister, saying he was trying to reform a welfare system which is "fuelling vices and impoverishing us all", arguing the changes should have been made in more stable economic time.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury also warned that the spiralling benefits bill is "increasingly stoking social division" between the "squeezed middle", who feel resentment at the "handouts" given to the long-term unemployed.
He added that the welfare system has gone from "the insurance-based safety net" designed to tackle the evils of "want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness" to an "industry of gargantuan proportions which is fuelling those very vices and impoverishing us all. "In the worst-case scenario it traps people into dependency and rewards fecklessness and irresponsibility," he said.