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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the coalition's welfare reforms in the face of the latest onslaught from the church, insisting it was right to withdraw benefits from claimants who refused to look for work.
"At a time when we inherited this massive black hole in our public finances there is nothing fair about simply saying we are not going to deal with our debts, we are going to let our children and our grandchildren do it," he said, speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in.
"You inevitably can't duck the fact that some of those savings come from a quarter of total public spending.
"I have a huge amount of respect for Vincent Nichols, but I think that to say that the safety net has been removed altogether is an exaggeration, it is not right. We are trying to get the balance right."
Twenty-seven bishops said that politicians had a "moral imperative" to do more to control food price hikes and to make sure that the welfare system offered the poor an essential safety net from hunger.
In a letter to the Mirror, they said: "Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year."
Some 27 Anglican bishops and 16 other clergy have accused the coalition of creating hardship and hunger, according to the Mirror. The newspaper reported that Britain’s leading bishops denounce David Cameron’s welfare reforms for creating a “national crisis”.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror, the bishops and faith leaders said the PM has a “moral duty” to act on the growing number going hungry.
Twenty-six bishops have condemned the Government's "punitive" welfare reforms in an open letter to the Daily Mirror.
The bishops criticised the reforms which they say have forced people into food and fuel poverty.
The letter states that too many people are having to choose between "heat or eat" as a result of "cut backs and failures in the benefit system".
The Anglican bishops wrote:
The Prime Minister has said he is giving the unemployed “new hope and responsibility” by cutting benefit payments and claims his welfare reforms, according to the Telegraph
The newspaper reported that David Cameron said it was part of a “moral mission” for the country.
Mr Cameron argues that the recent criticism of the changes by the Archbishop of Westminster is “simply not true”.
He said the overhaul of the benefits system, led by Iain Duncan Smith, was about “doing what is right” and not simply “making the numbers add up”.
David Cameron says he is giving the unemployed “new hope and responsibility” by cutting their benefit payments.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister responds to Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who said changes to the welfare system had left many in “hunger and destitution”.
In the article, Mr Cameron argues the Archbishop of Westminster’s criticism is “simply not true” and says the overhaul of the benefits system was about “doing what is right” and not simply “making the numbers add up”.
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rev Vincent Nichols, has told Political Editor Tom Bradby he is in "no doubt the social security system to be reformed".
But added: "At the moment, there are people who are left in destitution and hunger and in a country as intelligent and resourceful and as affluent as ours, I believe they are problems we should tackle."