The Morality of Poverty
The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has criticised the Government's plans to hold welfare payment increases below inflation.
Along with more than 40 bishops, he argues that we have "a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need." Is that true? If it is, what does that duty demand?
Must we guarantee a minimum standard of living for all? Should it be an absolute priority to protect children from poverty? Should the government redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest, even if that damages the collective prosperity of the nation?
Bishops in the House of Lords will attack the welfare plans when they are debated on Tuesday next week. The following day the Budget offers another chance to think about conflicting demands. We might consider whether, in times of austerity, we have a moral duty to spread the misery as fairly as possible. We might also look at what we mean by 'poverty'. Is the official EU definition - 'a household income below 60 per cent of median income' - a trustworthy guide to the point at which the state should offer its help? Or should we give hand-outs only to those who would starve without them?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Kenan Malik. Witnesses: Dr Stuart White - Director of the Public Policy Unit at Oxford University, The Right Rev'd Tim Stevens - Bishop of Leicester, Daniel Johnson - Editor, Standpoint magazine, Dr Sheila Lawlor - Director of the think-tank Politeia.