Latest Public Sector News

05.04.13

‘Right to ask’ why state subsidised Philpotts – Osborne

The Chancellor George Osborne has added further controversy to the debate over welfare changes, by implying a link between benefits and Mick Philpott, jailed for life for his part in the manslaughter of six of his children in a fire.

When asked on a visit to Derby whether the Philpotts were a product of Britain's benefit system, as some newspapers had suggested, Osborne said: “It's right we ask questions as a Government, a society and as taxpayers – why we are subsidising lifestyles like these. It does need to be handled.”

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls labelled the statement “cynical”. He said: “For the Chancellor to link this wider debate to this shocking crime is nasty and divisive and demeans his office.”

Philpott and his wife set fire to their house, killing six of their children. He has been jailed for life, with a minimum term of 15 years.

The Daily Mail attracted considerable attention for its front page yesterday, which directly linked the crime to the welfare state – highlighting that Philpott received over £8,000 a year in child benefit for his 11 children, lived in a council house and was unemployed.

The Conservative former minister Ann Widdecombe said: “I'm appalled by what happened to the children and that now wipes out everything else, but before this happened I was appalled by a state system that allowed a man to live in this way so blatantly. He tried to portray himself as a house husband, but that was nonsense. He didn't do anything.”

Conservative right-winger David Davis MP also suggested that there could be a case for withdrawal of benefits after a certain number of children.

Labour MP Andy McDonald said: “It just demonstrates how out-of-touch George Osborne is. He may as well make adverse comments about the entire population of a town or a religion, it's absolute nonsense. It just shows the depths to which they are prepared to stoop in demonising people who find themselves in difficult circumstances.”

Pamela Nash, the Labour MP for Airdrie and Shotts, added: “I think to link his crime of killing his children to his lifestyle, his claiming of benefits, is just deeply dangerous. Mairead and Mick Philpott made a decision to set fire to that house, which led to the death of those children. That is not related to the fact that they were claiming benefits.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Image c. M. Holland

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