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Minister links child murderer to welfare

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Couple sentenced for killing children in fire

British couple Mick and Mairead Philpott have received long jail terms for killing six of their children in a deliberate house fire.

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LONDON: British Chancellor George Osborne has linked the case of child killer Mick Philpott to the need for reform of the welfare system, questioning why taxpayers are funding "lifestyles like that".

Mr Osborne, who has been leading the government's defence of its sweeping welfare changes, stressed Philpott was responsible for his "absolutely horrendous" crimes.

There is a question for government and for society about ... the taxpayers ... subsidising lifestyles like that. 

George Osborne

But he said there was a "question for government and for society" about the welfare benefits that allowed Philpott to live the way he did.

George Osborne ... questions for government about the welfare state.

George Osborne ... questions for government about the welfare state. Photo: Getty Images

Philpott, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years for killing six of his children, lived in a council house in Derby, claimed thousands of pounds in benefit and refused to get a job.

When asked if the Philpotts were a product of Britain's welfare system, Mr Osborne said: "Philpott is responsible for these absolutely horrendous crimes, 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. And I think that debate needs to be had."

Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead during a news conference after the fire.

Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead during a news conference after the fire. Photo: AP

Other Conservatives have also linked the two issues. The former minister Ann Widdecombe was quoted in The Guardian as saying: :"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."

The paper quoted Labour MPs as saying making such a connection was a disgrace, offensive to those on benefits and "deeply dangerous".

Critics have attacked the government's wholesale changes to the welfare system, which enter into force this month.

But with the government keen to reduce the welfare bill a raft of changes are being introduced, including an average £14 ($20) a week cut in housing benefit for council tenants deemed to have a spare room – dubbed the "bedroom tax" by opponents.

Wider welfare and tax changes will also cut council tax benefit funding and peg working-age benefits and tax credit rises at 1 per cent – well below inflation – for three years.

Disability living allowance is being replaced by the personal independence payment, while trials are due to begin in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on household benefits.

PA

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