So Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has stirred up a storm over suggesting that people should stop having children if they can’t pay for them.
He made his comments on Newsnight last night, basically saying that those who are unemployed should “take responsibility” for the number of children they have and they shouldn’t expect the state to simply provide more by way of benefits to fund their growing offspring – to the extent that they then receive more in benefits than the average family earns.
These comments have led to widespread support from Tory MPs as you might expect.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley said ‘I am 100% behind what Jeremy Hunt has said’, adding that ‘Many hard working people save up before having children, so those who sit at home and do nothing shouldn’t expect taxpayers to pick up the tab for their alternative lifestyle.’
If you live in a council house, why should you automatically be eligible for a bigger house simply because you have more children – those who live in private rented accommodation or are buying their house, don’t have this luxury. The only way they can move to a bigger house is to save up or perhaps move to an area where property may be cheaper.
If you work and have another child you don’t automatically get a pay rise as a result! Why should you automatically get more benefits if you don’t work?
I am sure there are many working families, who are not on benefits, who would dearly love more children but who responsibly decide they cannot have more as they cannot afford them and would undoubtedly end up in too much debt. Why should the rules be different for those on benefits?
Of course as Rhian Beynon, a spokeswoman for Family Action, says “The welfare reforms will hit larger families very hard. It is not fair to assume that these families have a deliberate strategy of enlarging so as to obtain more benefits. It may be that people with large families have previously been in work but lose their jobs because of the recession.”
You may not make the choice to be unemployed but quite fundamentally you do make a choice to have a child. This decision is your responsibility. You have to make sure you can support that child.
Taking away the automatic right to receive more benefit does remove the crazy incentive that currently exists to somebody on benefits to increase these benefits simply by adding to their child count.
It seems we have a government prepared to tackle some tricky issues. Are they right?