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The deserving poor suffer most when the welfare state makes no demands of the undeserving

By Tim Montgomerie
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It's often difficult to understand what the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to say but in his now infamous New Statesman article he appeared to attack what he described as the "quiet resurgence of the seductive language of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor" under the Coalition.

Labour politicians do not want to make distinctions between different types of poverty. Central to the Brown project was a massive increase in dependence on the state. Benefits were extended up the income scale as part of a political project to increase the pro-state vote. Conservatives must reverse this. We can win the debate on poverty by becoming the champions of the most deserving. We must offer unconditional help to the deserving poor (the old, sick and disabled) and conditional help to the undeserving (the young and able-bodied unemployed). This is the only way of making the welfare state sustainable.

David Cameron seems to be making tip toe steps into this territory. Interviewed on ITV on Friday he suggested that people on welfare should be more careful about the number of children they have. Talking to Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford, the Prime Minister said:

"I get people saying “we waited before we got married until we could afford it, we waited till we could afford to have children, we waited and then we managed to get a house and I see someone down the road do none of those responsible things and they get put up in a council house, they have as many children as they want. They’re not thinking like I’m thinking”."

This is, of course, controversial territory but no civilisation can survive if the state makes no distinction between responsible and irresponsible forms of behaviour.


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