Northumberland MP calls for talks with church leaders on poverty

Sir Alan Beith MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Sir Alan Beith MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

MP Sir Alan Beith has today urged the Prime Minister to discuss poverty-reducing methods with religious leaders.

At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this afternoon, Sir Alan, the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, asked: “Does the Prime Minister recognise that it is part of the job of church leaders to challenge governments about poverty, but will he discuss with them measures that will help people out of poverty, like the pupil premium, like cutting tax on low pay, like measures to help troubled families? Because there is nothing particularly moral about pouring even more borrowed money into systems which can trap people in poverty and trap them into dependence on state money.”

Responding, David Cameron said: “I think my Rt Hon friend, who is a distinguished churchman himself, talks perfect sense. There is nothing moral about running up a huge deficit, about out-of-control welfare bills, and if we do not deal with these problems the whole country will be poorer.

“I think we should listen to the words of George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said the churches should be aware of dangers of defending a gigantean welfare budget, which every politician would count as a mark of common sense.”

Following Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Alan said: “As a Liberal Democrat MP, I am pleased that we have been able to introduce the pupil premium, tax cuts of the low pay, and the Troubled Families programme. But poverty in Britain persists through generations. It will not be ended by throwing money at an unreformed welfare system.

“The churches have a lot of knowledge of where the problems are and they need to engage with government on developing policy and using our limited resources to best effect. Real progress will involve helping people to change their lives and circumstances, which is very much part of the work of the churches.”