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David Cameron emphasises the moral justice of the Coalition's policies in his response to the Archbishop of Canterbury

By Matthew Barrett
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Several senior Conservatives have weighed in on the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments today - including Lord Tebbit (who was supportive of Williams' stance), Roger Gale (who called the Archbishop "plain wrong"), and Iain Duncan Smith (who said he should have been more balanced in his comments). 

Cameron earnestDavid Cameron has now responded to the Archbishop. During a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Cameron said:

"I don’t think it’s good or right for people in our country if we give up on paying down our debts and just pass that down to our children."

"I don’t think see anything good or even moral in that approach. I don’t think it’s good or right for us to pay people to stay on welfare, trapped in poverty, when we should be trying to get them a job. I don’t think that is good or right for people, or for our country. And also when it comes to education there’s nothing good or right allowing people to stay trapped in schools that often aren’t giving them a good education whereas the academy programme that we’re driving forward is raising standards and giving people hope for a better future."

Mr Cameron also said the Archbishop was perfectly entitled to his views: "I’ve never been one to say that the Church has to fight shy of making political interventions", but emphasised his willingness to defend his position and policies, saying "So, by all means, let’s have a robust debate but I can tell you, it will always be a two-sided debate".

Duncan Smith On MarrMr Duncan Smith, speaking on the BBC News channel, had a similar message on the moral justice of the government's welfare reform plans:

"We’ve got, for example, at the moment, the highest number of workless households, we’ve got over five million people permanently parked on benefits. Taxpayers pay high levels of tax to see people not living constructive lives, you’ve got broken homes, high levels of family breakdown. All of this is going on in a system which is in itself damaging the very people it seeks to serve."

“And there’s no kindness in that. Trapping somebody on 10 years on benefits and forgetting about them. So it would be nice if we’d seen a little more balance in his commentary, to say, actually the system itself is damaging the very lives it is meant to seek to help.”

BURROWES PORTRAIT4pm Update: David Burrowes MP, from the Conservative Christian Fellowship, responded to Rowan Williams' comments:

"I am disappointed by the Archbishop's comments but I recognise that he is entitled to his political views. Churches have an important role of standing up for the poor and vulnerable and the Archbishop rightly highlights that these root issues include child poverty, poor literacy and limited access to educational excellence. The reality is that this is the legacy inherited from the last Government."

"Unfortunately the comments appear to ignore the great potential of the Government's social reforms to empower communities and tackle these root issues."

"It would be wrong to characterise the article as a battle between the Government and the Church. Such a commentary would  be out of step with many in the church who have welcomed the Government's open door to Christian engagement and the opportunities for churches and faith based organisations to be more involved in the delivery of public services. The recent grant of £5 million for 'Near Neighbours' to help churches in our most deprived areas to reach out to all communities is a recognition of a constructive, open approach between Government and church and faith communities which will continue."


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