How many children do you have?
I don’t have any. My sister has one son. Iain Duncan Smith has four – two sons, two daughters – and it appears we should ask him:
Which of your children do you think you could give up if you became poor?
Would he give up the two oldest children? Or the two youngest? Keep one boy, one girl? Both boys? Both girls? Which children would he willingly cut out of his family if he came one of the working poor who need to claim Housing Benefit because rents are so high, tax credits because wages are so low? If he lost his job and had to claim JSA?
These are all very personal questions – much more than asking if he’d be willing to cap his state-paid benefits to £26,000 a year – but IDS just brought it up yesterday on Radio 4, when he started trying to justify the next plan of attack on the economy, the additional cuts in welfare for 2015–16 up to £10billion, because we’ve seen so well how austerity works since 2010.
“Large numbers” of families on welfare are having more children because they believe taxpayers will support them, he claimed.
By contrast, working families often chose not to have more children, even when they would like to, because they cannot afford to do so.
“People who are having support through welfare are often free from that decision,” he told BBC Radio 4. “We want to support people if they have children when they are out of work, of course. But really, is there an endless point to this? Can there not be a limit? You have to cut your cloth in accordance with what capabilities and finances you have.”
He added: “My view is that if you did this we would start it for those who begin to have more than, say, two children.”
Of course Iain Duncan Smith is lying like a lying thing when he claims that “working families” don’t claim benefits (93% of new Housing Benefit claimants are in work) – but this is the Tory tactic, to avoid discussing high rents and low wages and a rising cost of living.
And for all that, this may be the outrageous kite flown to make whatever cuts the Tories really have planned for 2015-2016 sound reasonable by comparison.
Update, 15th December 2013
The Conservative MP for Stratford-on-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, added his voice to the call for state control of families in the Mail on Sunday by cutting child benefit and tax credits for all but the first two children of any family. The Mirror reported:
If implemented after the general election in 2015 it would apply to those who had a third child from then onwards, not to families with more than two children now.
The plan emerged just days after Chancellor George Osborne indicated he would seek to make further cuts in the welfare budget if the Tories won in 2015.
Mr Zahawi said that the welfare state was established as a “last resort, not a lifestyle choice” but “the safety net became a straitjacket” trapping people into a life of dependency on the state.
He is apparently not a believer in social mobility: children will, he thinks, inevitably stay at the same level of their parents and ought not to be helped to rise.