Conservatives prepare to get tougher still on teenage single mothers in crackdown on benefits

Call for benefit curbs in new ‘right-wing agenda’ approved by PM

Political Editor

Recommendations that teenage mothers should no longer automatically be entitled to council housing or housing benefit, as part of a new drive to reduce teen pregnancy, have been welcomed by David Cameron in a report by Conservative MPs.

The 40 proposals, to be published later this week, come from the 40 Group – the Tories who hold the 40 most marginal seats in Parliament. Several of their controversial ideas have been blocked by the Liberal Democrats inside the Coalition, but could be revived in the Tory manifesto for the 2015 election. The 40 Tory backbenchers also call for:

* Greater use of contraception to reduce “repeat abortions” and propose diluting the rights of workers in small businesses;

* Deducting from child benefit payments any fines imposed on the parents of truants;

* Ending 40 per cent tax relief on pensions for higher-rate taxpayers;

* Cutting the number of non-EU foreign students at English universities outside the top 20 or 30;

* More rapid moves to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves and phasing out  renewable energy incentives.

During the 2015 campaign, the Liberal Democrats will highlight what they call a “right-wing agenda” they have stopped the Tories from implementing since 2010 – including housing benefit curbs for under-25s – and will warn that such measures could be revived if Mr Cameron wins an overall majority next time.

The Tory MPs admit their proposal for young mothers will be controversial but argue that, despite a 20 per cent drop in the conception rate among under-18s during the previous Labour government, the UK still has the highest teenage birth and  abortion rates in Western Europe. In a foreword to the report, Mr Cameron describes it as “a compilation of interesting ideas that will make a valuable contribution to policy debate within the Conservative Party”.

According to the report, some teenagers may view the right of 16 and 17-year-olds to claim housing benefit as “an automatic right to free housing, encouraging them to have a child.

“All benefits to teenage mothers should be made on the condition of them living with their parents or in supervised hostel accommodation,” said the Tory MPs. “Teenagers will be left in no doubt that teenage motherhood will not lead to an automatic right to subsidised housing and other benefits, while the public can be assured that a teenager’s motivations for having a child are not related to housing access.”

The MPs propose a drive to cut the number of “repeat abortions”, which rose from 31 to 36 per cent of all terminations in the 10 years to 2011. They suggest that health staff encourage the use of long-active reversible contraception – such as injections every 12 weeks or implants and devices fitted inside the womb – and are more pro-active in giving birth control advice after abortions.

Fiona Weir, chief executive of Gingerbread, which campaigns for single parent families, said last night: “It is hugely disappointing to see politicians yet again hit out at teenage parents with punitive policy ideas based on the same old stereotypes, which fly in the face of the facts. We know that, however untrue these stereotypes are, the stigma facing teenage parents can still be hugely damaging to the young women and men taking their first steps into parenthood. Teenage pregnancy rates have been declining for a decade and are the lowest on record. Just 2 per cent of single parents are teenagers. Young single parents are already set to lose out under universal credit, purely on the basis of their age.”

James Morris, the Conservative MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, and David Mowat, the Tory MP for Warrington South, said the 40 Group did not have “a single ideologically driven view of the world” but that its ideas stemmed from “listening to key swing voters on the doorstep”. They added: “They are practical ideas which could make a difference to the lives of ordinary people living in Britain today.”

In his foreword, Mr Cameron admits Tory Party members will have “different views” about the individual policies, but says they show the party is “brimming with ideas”.

To relieve regulatory burdens on business, the 40 Group also says small firms should be exempt from automatically enrolling workers in to pension schemes, and people taking cases to employment tribunals should have to “lay down a deposit based on their financial circumstances”.

It proposes that the definition of a “micro-business” be changed from one with fewer than 10 workers to fewer than five, because the current definition covers about 95 per cent of all companies.

These ideas echo the proposals by Adrian Beecroft, a venture capitalist and Tory donor, who recommended to No 10 that workers could be “fired at will” without resort to a tribunal – but saw his plan blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Case study: I would have had to bunk on friends’ sofas

Leah Moyse, a 24-year-old charity worker from Surbiton in Surrey, was 17 when she had her daughter

I was claiming housing benefit and first they put me in a hostel for six months, which was pretty disgusting, then I was put in temporary housing for three years. They’re private rentals which go through the council, so they’re really expensive.

I was in a one-bed flat, with no double-glazing and storage heaters. I don’t know what I would have done if this proposal had come in then: I would have had to bunk on friends’ sofas. Maybe I could have managed in the short term, but not for any real amount of time.

I now work with teenage mothers through the Straight Talking charity. Not one of them has said she did it for a council place. Some of them were in domestic violence relationships or coerced by older men, but none of them thought ‘what I really want in life is a council house and benefits’.

Teenage mothers are made out to be scheming, but a lot are in a bad place and need support rather than being condemned.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine