THIS past week has seen a great deal of debate around welfare reform and food banks, with critical comments from the newly-elevated Cardinal Nichols and a letter signed by a number of Anglican bishops.

While I always welcome contributions from church leaders to public debate, I think it is important that difficulties with benefit reforms are viewed in the context of the tens of billions of pounds taxpayers spend on supporting people who are in need or going through times of crisis.

I believe it is right that benefits should be capped – not at a miserly rate but at a level equivalent to an annual salary of £34,000 – a sum I know that many workers in Salisbury would be content to live on.

The Government-commissioned report on food security detailed that critical factors driving the growth in such provision were “a range of circumstances, but particularly household income, often underpinned by ongoing problems of low income and increasing indebtedness”.

I am very keen to look at these deeper causes and that is why I am one of a small number of Conservative MPs involved in a cross-party inquiry on the causes of food poverty.

We need to make a distinction between situations in which individuals find themselves in crisis due to human error, the slow processing of legitimate claims or inefficient transition between benefits, and those where family breakdown, longterm indebtedness or intermittent illness mean that any benefit system will struggle to remove the problems that exist.

I acknowledge the expressions of concern; Government must ensure the welfare state encourages work while looking after those in need. Currently, if someone is offered a minimum wage job for 25 hours a week, they would lose 84 per cent of that in tax and benefit withdrawal. That is wrong.

So, while I am extremely sympathetic and do all I can to sort out individual administrative failures, they do not make the objectives of the universal credit less worthwhile – and I did not see a credible alternative being presented by those offering criticisms.