An MP from the district has spoken out after a documentary detailing life on benefits showed claimants smoking “copious amounts of cigarettes” and watching Sky programmes on widescreen televisions.
Shipley MP Philip Davies pointed out that many of his hard-working constituents could not afford such luxuries. And the Conservative MP said benefits were clearly “too generous” as it appeared the claimants could also afford new tattoos.
Last week saw the first episode of Channel 4’s controversial documentary Benefit Street aired. It showed residents on James Turner Street in Birmingham discussing their dependence on benefits as well as featuring shoplifting sprees and fraud. Channel Five recently aired a similar programme called On Benefits and Proud.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Davies said: “Has the Secretary of State managed to watch Benefits Street and On Benefits and Proud?
“If so, has he, like me, been struck by the number of people on there that manage to combine complaining about welfare reforms whilst being able to buy copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos done and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television?
“Does the Secretary of State understand the concerns and irritation of many people who go out to work every day, pay their taxes and who cannot afford those kind of luxuries themselves?”
Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Many people are shocked by what they see but the reality is that is why the public back our welfare reform package to get more people back to work to end these abuses.”
After the debate, Bradford West MP George Galloway said: “It would be nice for Channel 4 to make a programme about renegade bankers rather than persecuting those on the margins.
“It’s well known that benefit fraud is tiny in comparison with that of the bankers. One expects this from Iain Duncan Smith and Philip Davies – the usual suspects.”
The show has been billed by the programme-makers as “one of Britain's most benefit-dependent streets”.
Bradford East MP David Ward MP said: “I think Philip is wrong to use lazy examples from sensationalised TV and compare it with most people who struggle to live off benefits.
“Whilst there will be some that use and abuse the benefits system, most people just want to get a job and provide for their family. Such comparisons are unhelpful and unwanted by my party.”