Osborne: State was subsidizing Philpott

April 5, 2013 at 1:50 AM
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DERBY, England, April 5 (UPI) -- The case of arsonist killer Mick Philpott illustrates the changes needed in Britain's welfare system, the chancellor of the exchequer said Thursday.

Chancellor George Osborne, a member of the Conservative Party, was asked about the case during a visit to Derby, where Philpott and his wife Mairead set the house fire that killed their six children, The Daily Telegraph reported. Philpott was sentenced Thursday in Nottingham Crown Court to life in prison, while his wife got a 17-year sentence.

Evidence at the trial showed Philpott, who was unemployed and had fathered 17 children by several women, had an income of 100,000 pounds ($150,000) a year from child benefits and other government sources, and by controlling the money his wife and mistress earned.

"I think the question for government and society, if you like, is a broader one about the welfare state and a question we ask on behalf of the taxpayer about whether we should be subsidizing these kinds of lifestyles," Osborne said.

The chancellor said changes that are about to kick in mean welfare recipients will no longer earn more money than they could by working. Those include a cap on annual benefits.

Ed Balls, the Labor Party's shadow chancellor, said Osborne was making debate on the issue tougher by bringing in a notorious case.

"We should have a proper debate about welfare reform," Balls said. "But for the chancellor to link this wider debate to this shocking crime is nasty and divisive and demeans his office."

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