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The television version of Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall is the latest account to challenge St Thomas More’s reputation as a courageous defender of the rights of conscience. Was he, in truth, a liberal icon, a religious fanatic or something in between?
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The Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected claims by the Archbishop of Westminster that cuts to the welfare system are leaving people in destitution, arguing that they are part of a “moral mission” that would give “new hope”.
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Cameron said he disagreed “deeply” with the critique by Vincent Nichols, whom Pope Francis is to make a cardinal on Saturday.
Mr Cameron said the welfare cuts were not simply aimed at saving money but ending a dependency culture so that people “are able to get on, stand on their own two feet and build a better life for themselves and their family”. He criticised the system the Government inherited in 2010, under which Housing Benefit was not capped and Incapacity Benefit could be claimed indefinitely.
In the interview the archbishop gave to Saturday's Telegraph, he said the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution had been “torn apart”, often leaving people with nothing for days if they failed to fill a form in correctly.
Mr Cameron said the decision that benefits should not go up faster than wages had been “difficult” but cited increases in Jobseekers’ Allowance and child tax credit for the poorest families.
The Prime Minister countered the archbishop’s complaint that the reforms were not working, arguing that the number of workless households had decreased.
He wrote: “Our welfare reforms go beyond that alone: they are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.
“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart, too, of our social and moral mission in politics today.”
Photos: CNS/Reuters, CBCEW