George Osborne accused of exploiting Philpott murder

Chancellor George Osborne has been accused of “cynically” exploiting the case of child killer Mick Philpott to justify the coalition’s welfare reform plans.

Philpott claimed thousands of pounds in benefits every year and refused to get a job, it has been revealed.

Yesterday, Mr Osborne questioned why taxpayers’ money was being used to “subsidise lifestyles like that” but was attacked for “demonising” welfare claimants as opponents reacted angrily to his comments.

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Asked on a visit to Derby if the Philpotts were a product of Britain’s benefit 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.”

The government has embarked on wholesale reform of the welfare system, including an average £14-a-week cut in housing benefit for council tenants deemed to have a spare room – dubbed the “bedroom tax” by critics.

But shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms said Mr Osborne was wrong to link the Philpott case to the welfare reform agenda. “Mick Philpott’s crimes were terrible. Everyone should be clear that responsibility for these evil acts rests with him and the others sentenced today.

“It is wrong to link those acts with the debate about welfare and George Osborne should not be doing so, even implicitly.”

He added: “Today is not the day to seek to divide people in this way and Mr Osborne should not be cynically doing so.”

Lord Wood, an adviser to Labour leader Ed Miliband, wrote on Twitter: “I can’t help but feel it’s wrong for Osborne to exploit our horror at the Philpott case to try to boost public support for cutting welfare”.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “He has demeaned his high office to sow hate in a desperate attempt to sell his so-called ‘reforms’ which are making 11.5 million households poorer.”