George Osborne sparks benefits storm over Mick Philpott Derby house fire - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

George Osborne sparks benefits storm over Mick Philpott Derby house fire

Chancellor accused of exploitation after saying tragedy supports case for welfare reform

George Osborne provoked a backlash today by suggesting that the horrific case of child killer Mick Philpott strengthened the case for further reforms of the welfare system.

Labour, pressure groups and charities accused the Chancellor of demonising claimants and trying to exploit an exceptional case after Philpott was given a minimum 15-year jail sentence for killing six of his children in a fire.

During a visit to Derby, where Philpott lived on benefits with 11 of his 17 children , Mr Osborne told the BBC: “Philpott is responsible for these absolutely horrendous crimes and these are crimes that have shocked the nation. The courts are responsible for sentencing, but I think there is a question for government and for society about the welfare state and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state, subsidising lifestyles like that. I think that debate needs to be had.”

Mr Osborne’s remarks suggests he has some sympathy for a controversial proposal by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, to limit state handouts such as child benefit to the first two children. The move has been blocked by the Liberal Democrats but could resurface in the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 election.

High-profile cases can prove a minefield for politicians. Tony Blair, then shadow Home Secretary, caught the national mood after the murder of two-year-old Jamie Bulger in 1993. But David Cameron, then Opposition Leader, was accused of “playing politics” in 2010 for describing the torture of a nine and 11-year-old boy by two brothers in Edlington, South Yorkshire, as a sign of Britain’s “broken society.”

Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, described Mr Osborne’s remarks as “ the cynical act of a desperate Chancellor.”  He added: “Millions of people, including pensioners and the disabled, people in work and out of work, receive benefits and tax credits. They will be as shocked and disgusted by the callous killing of these children as anyone else in Britain. But for the Chancellor to link this wider debate to this shocking crime is nasty and divisive and demeans his office.”

Dame Anne Begg, Labour chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, said: “It was an evil act and I don't think we should be making policy on the back of a very exceptional case.”

Andy McDonald, Labour MP for  Middlesbrough, said the Chancellor's comments were a “total disgrace”, adding: “It just shows the depths to which they are prepared to stoop in demonising people who find themselves in difficult circumstances."

Graeme Cooke, research director at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, said: “The idea that if only the rules of child benefit had been different these poor children might have been spared would be laughable if it wasn't offensive.” He said: “It is certainly not advisable to make national policy decisions about something like child benefit, which affects millions of families, on the basis of one extreme and shocking case.”

Tim Nichols, spokesman for the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Nobody in politics, or the media, should be seeking to exploit this tragedy and the isolated actions of an evil man to serve other agendas.”

He condemned “on-going myth-making about jobseekers, disabled people and carers who face ever greater hardship from cuts to safety-net support and who are not being given the jobs, living wages and affordable housing they need”.

Len McCluskey,  general secretary of the Unite union, said: “It is sickening to see George Osborne exploiting the evil of one man and the death of six children to try and demonise ordinary law-abiding people who are struggling to get by.”

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week