Tagged: Richard Benyon

‘Make Young Unemployed Pull Up Ragwort For Benefits’ Says Lord Tebbit

This article was written by Rowena Mason and Damian Carrington, for The Guardian on Wednesday 22nd October 2014

The former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit has said young unemployed people should be required to pull up ragwort from roadside verges in return for benefits.

The 83-year-old Tory grandee made the proposal in a letter to Matt Shardlow, chief executive of a charity called Buglife, which is concerned about the effect of declining ragwort on bees and rare insects.

In his reply to the charity, Tebbit said ragwort was a major problem in his part of East Anglia and proposed it could be weeded out by “Neets” – young people who are not in education, work or training – and “low level criminals”.

He wrote:

“I suggest you come to the Norfolk/Suffolk border areas of East Anglia. Landowners who wish to control ragwort face an impossible task when roadside verges are dominated by it to an extent I cannot remember in the past.

“There would be little cost to bring that under control if Neets and low level criminals were required as part of their contribution to the society which finances them, or which they have abused … to uproot this weed.”

> Translation: anyone unemployed is either living a luxury lifestyle at taxpayer’s expense or is a criminal.

Strangely, this is also many people’s definition of a politician…

Tebbit later told the Guardian:

Given a bit of organisation, they [unemployed young people] would be happy doing something constructive. That’s something constructive for them. It’s appealing, it gets rid of a weed which is a danger to some animals and helps landowners in the cultivation of their land.

“That was my thought that caused me to suggest the idea … in a way it’s a form of national service, of doing something for society in a way in which anyone unless they are physically disabled can participate.”

Asked whether he acknowledged some might find the idea of forced labour in return for benefits controversial, he said:

It’s workfare but I think there are some powerful arguments for workfare and so does [Labour MP] Frank Field for example. It’s not a way-out idea in that sense. If you go back to the Beveridge report on which the whole welfare state has been based, you’ll find he took the view that youngsters who had never worked should not receive benefits because they have not contributed anything.

“I am much more modest about this than Beveridge was and I suspect Ernie Bevan might have been on my side in it. I just think a lot of those youngsters want something to do which is constructive.”

However, Chris Bryant, Labour’s shadow welfare reform minister, said the comments reflected the “values of the Victorian workhouse” in which out-of-work people were forced to perform demeaning, unpaid labour.

There’s one weed that I would like to uproot: it’s sitting in the House of Lords. Lord Tebbit’s proposal, which effectively equates being out of work with being a criminal, is both offensive and ludicrous,” he said.

It betrays the deeply toxic attitude the Tories have towards people who rely on the social security net for any period of their life. Rather than acting to end the scourge of insecure, unskilled, low pay jobs, they think up ever more creative ways to demonise those that they have failed.”

It is not the first time Tebbit has made controversial suggestions about the unemployed. He is famous for suggesting in 1981 that they should get on their bikes to find work.

His stance on ragwort – a plant often sprayed with herbicides by local authorities because of its reputation for killing horses and grazing animals – may also annoy environmentalists.

Shardlow, the chief executive of Buglife, said:

We were surprised that Lord Tebbit suggested that the unemployed and criminals should be forced to pull up ragwort, particularly as ragwort is an important part of our native biodiversity, supports 30 species of insects and helps to sustain the now fragile bee populations that we need to pollinate crops.”

Shardlow said that the poor reputation of ragwort was undeserved and argued that cases where horses and other livestock appear to have been poisoned are the result of poor animal husbandry, not the spread of the plant. He said that while ragwort may be more obvious on roadside verges in some areas, it declined by 39% in England between 1998 and 2007. One of the insects dependent on ragwort, the cinnabar moth, has declined by over 80% in the last 35 years.

Richard Benyon, a former environment minister, was criticised by ecologists in 2011 when he posted a picture on Facebook of himself pulling up the yellow-flowered plant.

Declaring he hated ragwort, the Tory MP said he was “on the warpath for those who let this vile weed spread,” prompting anger from experts who said at least 30 insect and 14 fungi species are entirely reliant on ragwort.

>  I have actually done this work – pulling ragwort – back in the days when I was an environmental volunteer.  Those were also the days of Thatcher’s government, which included Tebbit.

I used to get constant grief from the Jobcentre for doing voluntary work – I was actually told that I might be considered to be making myself unavailable for work !

I pointed out that I was only doing it until another paid job came along, was learning new skills (some of which, incidentally, got me more paid work further down the line).

Honestly – damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  23 Oct 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/make-young-unemployed-pull-ragwort-benefits-says-lord-tebbit/

It turns out that benefits street is populated by rich people

Benefit tales

Wealthy private landlords are being exposed as the new face of the benefits scrounger taking Britain for a ride

Another day, another couple of front page headlines damning benefit scroungers. Except today? Today is different. The claimant-bashing Tory MP Peter Bone is apparently under investigation for an alleged housing benefit fraud relating to his mother’s care home costs. Over at the Mirror, the Queen and Prince of Wales are revealed to be reaping a fortune in publicly subsidised rent payments to their privately held property empires. I have to admit, for a snarky Guardian writer tasked with sharing First Thoughts on the day’s breaking news, this is all just too good to be true.

Bone, it must be stressed, fully denies the allegations, and legal formalities forbid comment. The Mirror’s scoop comes as part of an extensive research exercise with the GMB union and is gleaned from freedom of…

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Britain’s Richest MP slams welfare state but makes £625k a year in housing benefit

A Tory MP worth £110million is raking in £625,000 a year from his hard-up tenants’ housing benefit – despite blasting the “something for nothing” welfare state.

Richard Benyon – Britain’s richest MP – runs his vast property empire from a mansion on his sprawling country pile.

But last night he was accused of cashing in off the back of the very handouts his party pledged to slash – as it emerged a string of other Tories were doing the same.

Just last month the MP, 53, said: “The average household spends £3,000 per year on the welfare state. This figure had been rising inexorably and unaffordably.”

Mr Benyon has also attacked the Labour Party over payments and said: “Labour want benefits to go up more than the earnings of people in work. It isn’t fair and we will not let them bring back their something for nothing culture.”

He is a director of the Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited, which owns most of the land and property linked to his family.

It got £625,964 in housing benefit from West Berkshire council last year, more than any other private landlord in the area.

Eileen Short, of Defend Council Housing, fumed: “How dare Richard Benyon lecture us about ‘something for nothing’ when he is living off the poorest and milking taxpayers all the way to the bank?

“It’s not tenants who gain from housing benefit, but some of the richest people in Britain. They get richer at our expense – and blame us while they’re at it.”

Mr Benyon is likely to pull in thousands of pounds more from properties in other areas, too, as his firm owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland and 300 houses in Hackney, East London.

His office refused to comment on the figures or confirm whether Englefield got more housing benefit from other councils. Buy-to-let landlords and property tycoons like him will bank a total of £9.2billion in housing benefit this year.

It costs more than £23 a week, or 29% more in housing benefit, for a council to house a tenant with a private landlord than with a housing association or social not-for-profit landlord, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mrs Short added: “It’s time we stopped greedy private landlords living off housing benefit. Instead of subsidising them, we ought to cut rents not benefits, and invest in housing that’s really affordable. Let’s get these people off our backs.”

Our investigation, with the GMB union, comes after it was revealed yesterday that UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous was making a fortune off migrant tenants on welfare – despite leader Nigel Farage calling for a ban on foreigners claiming the cash.

The millionaire pocketed £745,351 in housing benefit from occupants, who he admitted included immigrants.

Our probe also uncovered a number of other Tories and donors who also bagged cash through housing benefit tenants last year –

Baron Iliffe’s firm got £195,072 from West Berkshire council. His estate is worth an estimated £245million. He and his wife have donated £50,000 to the Tories.

Peer Lord Cavendish benefitted from £106,938 in housing welfare last year from Barrow council in Cumbria through his shareholding in Holker Estates.

The Earl of Cadogan, who has given £23,000 to the Tories, has received £116,400 in benefits from Kensington and Chelsea.

And MP Richard Drax’s 7,000-acre Morden Estate got £13,830 from Purbeck council, South Dorset, last year. A Morden spokesman said: “We don’t comment on these things.”

On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants, his family farms have also received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.

Once a year the multi-millionaire – whose great great grandad was PM Lord Salisbury – hands out food to poor families as part of a 16th century tradition. He recently came under fire for scrapping plans to dredge the Somerset Levels. He was also criticised for claiming poor families wasted too much food.

Our investigation is based on Freedom of Information Act requests made by the GMB union, which has many members who rely on social housing. There are 1.8 million households on the waiting list for council homes. Despite ­Government pledges to tackle the welfare bill, the annual cost hit £24billion this year.

The DWP said: “Housing benefit provides a meaningful safety net for people, whether they live in social housing or in private rental properties, and it’s sensible that both of these options are available to people.”

Source – Daily Mirror,  24 Feb 2014