Tory MPs call for teenage mothers to live with parents
Group of 40 MPs recommends teenage mothers should get welfare only if living with parents or in supervised hostel
Forty Conservative MPs occupying the most marginal seats in the House of Commons have focused in a paper on “practical” social and economic ideas that “could make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people living in Britain today”. Photograph: PA Wire
Welfare benefits to teenage mothers should be paid only on condition that they live with their parents or in a supervised hostel, 40 Conservative MPs occupying the most marginal seats in the House of Commons have said.
Seeking, perhaps, to deflect the Conservatives’ preoccupation with the European Union, the “40 Group” focused in a paper on “practical” social and economic ideas that “could make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people living in Britain today”.
“Too often the enthusiasm of individual MPs is lost in the party system. This book demonstrates that those fighting in marginal seats have the ideas needed to help improve the lives of people across the United Kingdom,” the MPs said.
The battle faced by one of the paper’s co-authors, James Morris, illustrates the battle faced in two years’ time by Conservative MPs in marginal constituencies, where seats will be lost if the Conservatives are seen to be out of touch.
In 1997, his Halesowen and Rowley Regis constituency in the west midlands was won by Labour’s Sylvia Heal won with a 10,000-plus majority, though by 2010 it fell to him, by a 2,023 majority.
‘More radical approach’
Matching conservative social attitudes with middle-ground opinion, the group noted that Labour’s focus from 1997 on improving contraception rates and better sex education “has undoubtedly contributed” to the 20 per cent fall in pregnancy rates that has occurred since.
“However, there needs to be a more radical approach in order to bring the UK’s teenage pregnancy rates in line with our European counterparts. Although controversial, there needs to be some focus on the arrangements by which welfare is allocated to teenage mothers.
“Take access to housing benefit, for example. 16-17-year- olds are currently entitled to claim housing benefit if they ‘have a good reason for not living at home’. Some teenagers may view this, quite incorrectly, as an automatic right to free housing, encouraging them to have a child,” the MPs said.
Sixteen- and 17-year-old mothers can claim child benefit and income support in their own right, leading to “a public perception” that “many teenagers are having children to attain benefits and subsidised housing, creating a great deal of resentment and unease”.
Requiring teenage mothers to live with their parents or in a supervised hostel would ensure that welfare benefits are not “a teenager’s motivation for having a child”, said the group, which urged ministers not to shy away from further reform.