Starmer under fire as Justin Welby hits out at two-child benefits cap

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the two-child cap was 'neither moral nor necessary'
The Archbishop of Canterbury said the two-child cap was 'neither moral nor necessary' - Jason Bye/PA

Sir Keir Starmer has come under fire for refusing to scrap the two-child benefits cap after the measure was criticised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said that the cap was “neither moral nor necessary” and “falls short of our values as a society”.

He told The Observer: “Children should grow up in families and households where they can flourish and be supported to find their place in the world. Yet the two-child limit prevents many from accessing the resources they need. This cruel policy is neither moral nor necessary.”

Last year, Sir Keir, the Labour leader, confirmed that he would keep the threshold, which restricts benefits to the first two children in most households.

Under rules put in place when George Osborne was chancellor, families cannot claim tax credit or Universal Credit for a third child.

‘Conservatives’ disastrous handling of economy’

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, appeared to praise the Archbishop’s remarks on the policy, telling Sky News: “You’re never going to find, if there’s a Labour government, politicians being sent out to attack the Archbishop of Canterbury for virtue-signalling, as Conservative MPs have done.

“It is literally his job – he is the one person in the country whose job it is to signal virtue. If the mission of the Church is not to alleviate poverty and suffering, I don’t know what is.

“It is one of the consequences of the Conservatives’ disastrous handling of the economy that the public finances are in a mess, and there are hard choices to make.

“Unless and until I can sit on your programme and say we will do X by funding it through Y, that’s not a commitment I’m able to make today.”

Asked about his personal view on whether the limit should be ditched, Mr Streeting told Sky’s Trevor Phillips: “I voted against the two-child limit, so by definition I wish it wasn’t there.”

‘Never believed the cap is right’

Rosie Duffield, the Labour MP for Canterbury, told The Telegraph that Sir Keir should “think again” on keeping the cap, saying that “all his MPs want him to scrap the two-child limit”.

She said: “We are in touch with constituents constantly, so we see first-hand how hard life is for those on benefits. It is also great to have the intervention of a faith leader whose churches do so much to help our communities and those struggling to make ends meet.”

Charlotte Nichols, the Labour MP for Warrington North, said she “never believed the cap is right” and would “fully support it being abolished at the earliest possible opportunity”.

But she added: “The Archbishop would probably be better directing his comments towards the Government we actually have at the minute, though – particularly if we have another fiscal event before the general election.”

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, also called for the cap to go. Writing for The Telegraph, she said: “Do we support families or do we penalise them? That’s the real question of a compassionate welfare system.”