Tuesday, 03 March 2015

Clegg backs moves to cut benefits for rioters

The deputy prime minister has backed moves to withdraw benefits from rioters despite concern from his Liberal Democrat colleagues.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Nick Clegg said there is already ‘conditionality’ in the benefits system that could be extended to cover rioters.

‘We are going to take our time to look at this, but of course you need to be proportional, of course you need to be careful, or course you don’t want to create unintended consequences where actually the taxpayer ends up giving more, or we create more social problems of problems of law and order,’ he said.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith raised the prospect of benefit cuts for rioters in an interview with the BBC on Monday. ‘What we’re looking at is, for criminal charges, should we take the benefit? And the answer is “yes”, how would we do that, off individuals who got swept up in criminal behaviour?,’ he said.

Several Liberal Democrat MPs have spoken up against the plans, and expressed concern about moves to make it easier to evict social tenants who have been involved in riots. Tessa Munt, MP for Wells, told the Guardian: ‘Frankly, this all smacks of headline grabbing by Conservatives, not calm, rational policy making.’

At the press conference yesterday Mr Clegg announced the government will introduce community payback schemes in riot-hit areas.

He said ‘riot payback schemes’ will be set up in areas damaged by the unrest last week. ‘You will see people in visible orange clothing making up the damage done, repairing and improving the neighbourhoods affected,’ he said.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles and prime minister David Cameron are expected to announce a multi-million pound fund to help communities affected by the riots on a visit to Tottenham today.

Readers' comments (52)

  • I was already thinking it was a bit rich for Clegg to call himself a democrat, given the way he so willingly dumped key policies his supporters voted for, in the coalition talks. Now he can no longer call himself liberal either. Just switch the yellow tie for a blue one, and have done with it, you shameless, power hungry tool.

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  • Rick Campbell

    It's a pity he and his lapdog / "trousering" colleagues didn't go for the jugular of MPs and their expenses?

    It's shameful that he and his ilk support the "EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE" mantra and policies directed at the vulnerable and social housing tenants as well as social housing in general?

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  • McMadman

    Is he also backing a change in tax codes for the rioters who work, so that they have all their income removed for a period ? No ? Why not ?

    Typical. Tories attack the poor, Clegg defends them. Shame on both. Equality demands that the working rioters have their tax increased to 100% for as long as those on benefits have their benefits withdrawn.

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  • Chris

    I'm looking forward to the conference season and Clegg's key note address, where he tells the party to go home and prepare for a nice cup of tea and a long retirement.

    What this chump does not appreciate is how much his duplicity and failure has contributed to the environment of hopelessness and despair, which has fed through to a breakdown in law and order. How rich of this millionaire to demand that the excluded and dispossessed take responsibility for their actions when he will not take responsibility for his own. Let's not forget that this all started when the public sector was scapegoated into taking the reponsibility for the failure of the private sector, and the wider public forced to take responsibility for the actions of failed politicians.

    If there truly is a wish for public to take responsibility then its leaders must lead and take responsibility first. Resign then apologise, or apologise then resign - makes no odds really, unless there is a desire to apologise then put right the wrongs this government has committed - that would be the grown up thing to do.

    If we were spectators of a foreign nation instead of looking at our own, we would be calling for tribunals of reconcilliation, leaders to be put on trial for thier crimes against the people, and using troops to enforce regime change. Where are the calls of abuse of human rights with the kangeroo courts and removal of privacy actions of our government. Even the Chinese are calling Cameron and Clegg on their hypocrisy.

    If these idiots really believe what they are proposing is restorative and positive, then we all need to get on our knees and pray.

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  • Bill Pearson

    Has Clegg got a block when it comes to answering emails and letters as he never acknowledges them, or is he just ignorant. One of our committee members has sent at least three and nothing comes back. Has anyone had the same problem?

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  • McMadman - whilst I dont support this move, you are missing the rather obvious point that at least someone who is working has to do some work to actually earn the money they receive, which is not being paid by the state. So not really the same thing is it.

    What has been constantly missed on here time and time again is personal responsibility. Stop blaming other people, situations, blah blah blah for the actions of the fools. There are many people out there who are unemployed/feeling disillusioned/put upon etc - the vast majority of them did not go out rioting.

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  • Eric Blair

    Without a full and open public enquiry (transparency!) how can we understand who the rioters were in terms of employment status? Why target claimants in particular, when it's possible that only a very small percentage of them rioted? Makes no sense to me...

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  • Norman Blunt

    Genius. Nick Clegg - in common with his Tory chums - is outraged at the criminal behaviour we saw last week. So part of his - and their - response is to cut benefits for people convicted. If people are not working and are on full benefits, unless Clegg and co. can come up with jobs for those concerned, what do they think will be the effect of this action?

    Or is it really too complicated for them to understand that this will mean people thieve even more in order to live?

    Or where is the major jobs creation programme, Nicky and Ian?

    Intended consequences, unintended consequences, or just completely bone-headed?

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  • Chris

    Bill - you are missing the obvious - since the closure of the NotW there has been nobody to answer the government's email, or decide what they should do. This temporary glitch will be ovecome just as soon as the department for government responsibility is opened in the Sun's offices and Murdoch control of UKplc is resumed.

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  • What odds Mr. Clegg ahs been welcomed into the tory inner circle before the next general election?

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  • Sarah Chapman

    The issue here is that the govt and others are proposing that people are punished twice - once by the courts (with savage sentences - four years for idiotic Facebook pages which actually incited NO ONE to turn up and riot!) and again by having their financial support and housing taken away. That is inherently unjust. The fact that only some people are targetted for this double punishment - because they happen to be unemployed and live in social housing - is unfair. I despair of this country.

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  • Excellent idea Mr Clegg, contrary to the doom and gloom predictions - Libdems will do well at the next election. Most around the country are sick and tired of the social security free-booters some of those in these pages - why should taxpayers support hooligans and the civic-destroyers? Restrict social safety net to bread and water and a mattress in a dormitory - and get them to work for what they get - bring back the chain gangs for the longer term prisoners too.

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  • Rick Campbell

    David Hyde | 17/08/2011 10:23 am

    "I was already thinking it was a bit rich for Clegg to call himself a democrat, given the way he so willingly dumped key policies his supporters voted for, in the coalition talks. Now he can no longer call himself liberal either. Just switch the yellow tie for a blue one, and have done with it, you shameless, power hungry tool. "

    Quite correct, sir.

    Full wallet = Empty heart
    Full heart = Empty wallet.

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  • Ernie Gray

    Read the code " we are going to take our time". So this means that essentially after all the bellicose comments over the past few weeks once the summer is over and all the children are back at school or truanting then about November there will be a ministerial statement stating that having sought legal advice and consider the wider ramifications of the proposals made earlier in the year that on reflection matter of the aspirational changes have been dropped but there will be some minor amendments to bits of legislation -- not that I'm a cynic

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  • The knee-jerk reaction on all sides of the argument is frightening. Before putting pen to paper (or finger to keypad) perhaps engagement of wetware is needed.

    What has Clegg said IN THIS ARTICLE – and remove the sub-editors headlining.

    ‘There is conditionality’, ‘we need to take our time’ ‘of course you need to be careful’ ‘unintended consequences’. None of the above seems to indicate an irrational assault on ‘benefits’ of criminals. Wages of criminals can of course be affected by fines / compensation orders which can be deducted at source from wages if there is failure to pay – so let’s knock the straw man down about inequality of treatment and discrimination between ‘wage earning criminals’ and ‘benefit-receiving criminals’.

    To the crux of the issue – as far as many (not just Daily Mail readers) see it. How can you punish criminals? Is a custodial sentence always appropriate? Surely not – surely circumstances need to dictate – the severity of the offence etc. Community Punishment is always preferable to incarceration if there is an option. Financial recompense needs to be made. In many cases insurance companies (i.e. premium payers) will assist: in others ‘Government’ (and by that I include all institutions of the state, Local Government, Housing Associations etc) will have to spend unbudgeted sums from contingency reserves to put right what these criminals have done.

    Where will that come from – a supplementary tax on everyone? I know – let’s put 2p a litre on fuel for a year to fund restitution. The economic impact of that may well put the very short term impact of the riots (apart from on such as the Reeves family for example) into the shade.

    What indeed is the underpinning justification for paying benefits to anyone – is it an absolute categorical right that the state collects money from everyone and hands it over without condition to those who fulfil the terms? Is there not an implicit contract underpinning this that a benefit recipient acknowledges the state which provides – in all its senses and complies with the rules and regulations therein. As part of that acceptance, the state will provide a minimal survival income. If the criminals break their side of the contract, surely the state is entitles to consider the agreement voided and until the criminal shows true repentance and a desire to rejoin society, then any benefits can rightly be suspended. If the criminal, in a spirit of constructive contrition works in a voluntary capacity for the benefit of society, willingly and without the need for expensive supervision, then the equivalent of the benefit can be paid as a ‘social wage’.

    Now surely this isn’t radical, discriminatory etc. Evicting the family of criminals probably is and I would not support it. But let’s investigate options before coming to knee-jerk reaction.


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  • Rick Campbell

    Just had an e-mail from a regular reader ... so, in response to that:-

    In my opinion, for what it's worth (probably nowt as I'm a social housing tenant) --- Mr Clegg FWEH (Full Wallet Empty Heart) would be in a similar position if he'd made a deal with Labour.

    Furthermore, it is unlikely that things would be all that much different under a different government --- can anyone tell me of similar rioting and looting under Newlab?

    Interestingly, one Court has just passed down a sentence of a 1 year social network ban and a 3 month overnight curfew to someone for encouraging rioting. Nthat's differnt from 4 years (they'd only serve 2?).

    One wonder if any of those referred to in the above paragraph were social housing tenants. Please note that I am not sugesting any of them were.Just had an e-mail from a regular reader ... so, in response to that:-

    In my opinion, for what it's worth (probably nowt as I'm a social housing tenant) --- Mr Clegg FWEH (Full Wallet Empty Heart) would be in a similar position if he'd made a deal with Labour.

    Furthermore, it is unlikely that things would be all that much different under a different government --- can anyone tell me of similar rioting and looting under Newlab?

    Interestingly, one Court has just passed down a sentence of a 1 year social network ban and a 3 month overnight curfew to someone for encouraging rioting. Now, that's different from 4 years (they'd only serve 2?).

    One wonder if any of those referred to in the above paragraph were social housing tenants. Please note that I am not suggesting any of them were.

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  • Crikey. Bit of Cleggy-bashing going on here isn't there? I don't mean to point out the staggeringly obvious, but when you go into a coalition government, it means compromise – if you’re the smaller party, you have less bargaining power. You have to ditch some of your policies to get others accepted and vice versa. The alternative is to continue doing nothing from the sidelines, but with your 'perceived integrity' intact.

    At least this way they had a shot at making some real changes instead of doing their usual ‘also ran’ approach. It beggars belief that people across the country still think that you can have a coalition government with two opposition parties working together and no-one has to change a policy! Compromise is not duplicity – it’s a necessity when you don’t have majority in parliament.

    Personally, I don't think the lib dems made all the right choices and dumping the tuition fees policy may well have cost many of them their seats in parliament at the next election (they were never going to get it through, but it would have been better to get agreement to abstain), but I would much rather have coalition government with the lib dems restraining much of the general tory right wing lunacy, than a full on tory government or the continuation of the new labour disaster.

    Chris – hopelessness and despair there may be, but last time I checked everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. Hard times are a mandate for protest, they aren’t a mandate to go looting and destroying the livelihood of the local community.

    As for the whole foreign nation thing; please try and have a sense of proportion. This isn’t Iran. The government aren’t perfect, but they ARE accountable – you get to vote for someone else every 5 years without fear of reprisal if you don't like what you've got. That’s a freedom that far too few people in this country appreciate and too many take for granted.

    Yes – the govt is throwing stupid sentences at people and is going over the top in response to the perception that they waited too long to try and get it in hand. But the reality is, many of these people will be freed or have their sentences reduced substantially on appeal – a complete waste of money perhaps, but we’re hardly talking Iranian or Zimbabwean style abuse of human rights.

    Our government rules through perception. If you want them to act sensibly and proportionately regarding benefits to rioters, you need to educate the 100,000 who signed the petition and the silent millions who nod in agreement. Govt’s do what they can to survive, they believe that they can do good in the background so long as they are seen to respond to the headlines. It’s hardly surprising, but the alternative is a dictatorship.

    And if you want to stop people from looting; teach them the value of community and respect for others regardless of background.

    My own belief is that the riots were largely a response to the legitimisation of minor crime. For years we’ve been telling everyone that all politicians are liars, all big companies are fat cats who rob from the people. Kids regularly download music illegally and justify it to themselves by accusing record companies of being ‘fat cats’ who deserve it. The way that kind of thinking comes home to roost is through the belief that it’s fine to steal from Currys or Debenhams or whoever – they’re fat cats. And they local newsagents – they have shops, so they must be fat cats too! And the Govt won’t punish you, because they’re all liars and criminals as well – just look at the expenses scandal. Forget the fact that the last election saw the greatest ever influx of new MPs into parliament who had nothing to do with it. Yes – it’s probably a simplistic approach, but there’s far too much ‘us and them’ attitude in our society; something that is perpetuated all too bl**dy often on these boards.

    A little proportion and balanced judgement on all sides would do us good.

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  • Deacon and Neil - agree with nearly everything you said! Dont expect much support from the masses on here!

    I dont support the removal of benefits as a reaction to this situation, smacks too much of PR. I do agree though that it is like one side of a moral contract. Maybe anyone in receipt of benefits who commits a crime must complete a significant amount of valuable community work or similar (decided by courts). Not as punishment, but because they are not holding up their side of the bargain. This should go for all benefits, not just job seekers.

    Personal responsibility

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  • Chris

    Deacon - what a shame you did not anticipate the situation that now exists when you wrote:

    Deacon Spike | 05/08/2011 9:45 am

    We the downtrodden... yawn. Ruling elite... yawn. Politicians need to listen... blah blah blah.

    I'm so tired of listening to this kind of ill informed and thoughtless commentary on the ills of our society. By comparison to many, we live in a fantastic country. We have an increasingly transparent parliamentary system. The press (the last bastion of unelected power) is finally being subjected to some long overdue scrutiny. And whilst 38% of the enfranchised public don’t seem to care enough to go out engage with it, you can vote for anyone you want without fear of reprisal or harm. Perhaps the author might like to go and spend a few years living in Zimbabwe? Or maybe she’d like to experience some of the oppression to be found under Ahdmenijad’s Iranian regime? Yes we have our problems, our society isn’t perfect and it needs constant scrutiny and refinement, but one of its great ills is the continuation of the ‘us and them’ philosophy.

    It is *this* idea; the pathological ostracization of anyone who enters parliament, that causes the greatest damage to our society. For the last ten years we have fed off the conspiracy theories, stories of ‘fat cat’ pay and expenses scandals and rather than see the good changes to result from it, instead we have media commentary such as this that insists that nothing has changed and that those in power are all evil. Damn that fact that the vast majority of the MPs *we vote for* are good and decent people trying to change our society for the better. The insistent belief that nothing good can come from those in power leads to only one place; the end of our parliamentary system. It’s in circumstances such as those that Hitler was brought to power.

    As for whether they listen; of course they do! Everything and I mean *everything* is governed by the anticipated response of the public at large. Take Ken Clarke’s recent proposals for sentencing where a guilty plea was entered. It was a sensible, well thought out policy that had the massive benefit of sparing the victims of rape an horrific trial process, but it was ditched without further consultation simply because the public at large equate a reduced sentence with a ‘soft touch’ system. Again, when the Government attempted to introduce poorly thought out reforms to the NHS, the considerable public backlash got them to stop and reconsider their approach.

    What Julie fails to realise is that the issues that concern her so greatly don’t create enough waves within the public at large to get them noticed at a higher level. So my advice is this; don’t snoop pointlessly from the sidelines, if you want to change things, run for parliament and fix the system you think is so broken. But then, you’ll be one of the ruling elite won’t you?

    Your conclusion that the system is not broken, and those pointing out the pressures heading to boiling point are worng seems a little out of touch with the reality of people on the street.

    That said, your concluding paragraph on this thread is sensible approach to the causes, and exactly why the government's response will make it worse not better. Removing rights and freedoms moves us towards the Iran's of this world and not forwards - waiting until we are in such a bad states is a fools option; almost as stupid as refusing to see the pressures in society until they explode!

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  • Rick Campbell

    Sorry for the duplication in my previous post on this thread -- I don't know how it happened -- but then, I have difficulty with the low level technology of my Zimmer frame, let alone that of the internet/keyboard.

    A lot of interesting points on this thread but the upshot seems to be that it's the Courts that decide the punishment not the State -- have I got that wrong?

    Bashing Mr Clegg (FWEH) -- am I to take it that as the article was about him and his actions/words that he is, in that respect 'fair game'?

    There are some things that are confusing me -- so please do not think I am having a go at any posters :-

    Is it 100% correct that everyone knows right from wrong? There will be vulnerable people who don't.. unless I am wrong (hence the confusion).

    Whilst I tend to lean towards Mr Clegg (FWEH) applying the brakes on out and out tory mayhem, all he has to do bring the government down is to join the opposition -- but their policies aren't that much different from tory ones (particularly housing policies).

    BUT Mr Clegg (FWEH) could do himself a bit of political good by having his party speak out against government and opposition policies BUT he hasn't.

    His party have not even abstained on, let alone voted against , on them or have they? (hence the confusion) .

    General elections every 5 years -- I thought it was up to a maximum of every 5 years (and being called rather than having to take place within a strict 5 years deadline) -- hence the confusion.

    More later perhaps.

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