England riots: IDS considers ending looters' benefits


Iain Duncan Smith: Crackdown on gangs should happen in all areas at the same time

People convicted but not jailed for rioting could be stripped of benefits under plans considered by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

He said he would prefer it that such an approach, if adopted, was carried out by the courts and not the government.

Currently, those jailed lose benefits but other punishments, like community service, do not prompt such a loss.

It comes as a split between Tories and Lib Dems has emerged over plans to evict families of rioters.

A wave of rioting, looting and arson spread from London to parts of the East and West Midlands, Merseyside, Bristol, Manchester and Gloucester last week.

The welfare secretary said he would like to see a system in which benefits were removed as part of the judicial process.

'Take consequences'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We already accept that if people who are receiving benefits do not, are not prepared to seek work, take the work that's available to them, we take the benefit off them. And if you go to prison we take your benefit off you.

"So what we're looking at is, for criminal charges, should we take the benefit? And the answer is yes."

Mr Duncan Smith said he believed most people would recognise that "the first lesson you learn is that, when you do something willingly and you set out to do it that is criminal, then you must bear the consequences of what you do".

Asked about the welfare secretary's comments, Mr Cameron said: "He has my full support".

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes cautioned against "kneejerk solutions" in the wake of the riots and spoke of the importance of striving for a "responsible society" that did not take away "public support for the needy".

His sentiments were echoed by Lib Dem welfare spokeswoman Jenny Willott, who said such moves could make matters worse.

Several London authorities, including Southwark which encompasses Mr Hughes's constituency, have said they will seek to evict from council-owned homes people who are convicted of involvement in rioting.

On Friday, Wandsworth Council served a tenant with an eviction notice after that person's son appeared in court in connection with the Clapham Junction riot.

'Make things worse'

Prime Minister David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles both said they thought plans to evict rioters from social housing were a good idea.

On Sunday, following Mr Hughes's comments about "kneejerk solutions" in response to rioting, the Lib Dem welfare spokeswoman told the Observer she was "very worried" about moves to cut benefits.

"One obvious problem would be that if people don't have money they would turn more to acquisitive crime," Ms Willott said.

"I completely understand people's desire to stamp out the problem, but it is important that we do not make things worse."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    This problem has now gone down the usual route of party politics. Maybe rather than everyone jumping on a blame it on the unemployed bandwagon, we should find out what actually is the cause of the rioting. Sadly this will take time and money, but maybe we might learn for it if the results are not coverup or whitewashed as is usual. I bet that it will come down to lack of opportunity and prospects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    More sound bites from politicians. Note the politicians are getting the magistrates to do it so they keep their hands clean. What about those not on benefits, are they going to get an extra punishment? What about others in the families that are going to be affected by this loss?
    I wish politicians would think things through before the usual knee jerk reactions and pretty speeches.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I've been on benefits for the last year, and once bills are paid, survive on about £20 a week. That is a privilage that few people in the world have, and I accept that means I can't afford luxuries. The 'money for nowt' menatlity of people is a disgrace, take away their benefits and let them see that society is there help you when your down, not give you beer money because you can't be bothered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    I do not have a problem with cracking down on looters and thugs but i do not think taking away benefits will help much ,just another reason for them to go out and steal ,rob and loot .Anyway all this sudden raft of "we are going to get tough from politicians " will it be the same as "getting tough on crime and getting tough on the causes of crime" have we been here before . Sadgit

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I believe this takes us away from focussing on the main issues which are to prevent the necessity for these youngsters to even want to riot in the first place. The issues are not about money they are more to do with a long-term, underlying poverty relating to the lack of ability to integrate successfully within our society.


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