Mr Jememy Hunt has stirred up a big debate over family size and benefit incomes. He is saying people need to take responsibility for their own decisions, whilst his critics say that the state must act as the insurer of last resort whatever choices people make.
In the end it comes down to what the neighbours think. There is no state money, only the money that taxpayers send the government. Mr Hunt is inviting us all to reconsider what it is fair and sensible for the neighbours to pay.
The question is easy to answer in many cases. Most of us are very ready to pay for a neighbour who is seriously ill, disabled so they cannot work, or elderly. None of us wish to pay for a neighbour who has substantial capital of his or her own, a rich husband or wife, or the ability to take a job on offer that would pay their bills. We do not wish to keep anyone in champagne and luxury cars, but do want to help those in trouble have decent food, clothing and a home.
As Mr Hunt has discovered, it is the cases in the grey areas that are difficult. A benefit system has to set out rules for everyone that are fair and straightforward. It also has to handle a very wide range of circumstances, all of which are slightly different.
I would be interested in your thoughts on Mr Hunt’s points. How do we send the right message about what the neighbours will pay for? What if any are the limits of benefit payments for an individual family? How do we protect the children whilst telling the adults they have to show some responsibility?