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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Renewable Energy Construction Manager

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices