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“Get on your bike” Tory now wants out-of-work youngsters to pull ragwort in Suffolk and Norfolk

Lord Norman Tebbit is pictured at his home in Bury

Lord Norman Tebbit is pictured at his home in Bury

Archant

The “impossible task” for Norfolk and Suffolk landowners of dealing with ragwort could be tackled by low level criminals and out-of-work youngsters, a former cabinet minister has claimed.

Lord Tebbit made the comments in a letter to Matt Shardlow - chief executive of a charity called Buglife - who is concerned about the effect of declining ragwort on bees and rare insects.

The peer, who now lives in Bury St Edmunds, famously suggested in 1981 that the unemployed should get on their bikes to find work.

In the letter, given to a national newspaper, the peer 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.”

He 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.”

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.”

16 comments

  • I think this is a great idea. Let's get low-level criminals doing work like this. And the first one on the work party could be an elderly Bury resident who viciously assaulted people celebrating the Chinese New Year a couple of years ago.

    Report this comment

    beerlover

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • What I should have said was, 'Lord Tebbit'...chief 'Henchman' of thatcher !

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • He could have suggested extra help for the elderly in their gardens or helping with the disbaled, for example, but he chose help for LANDOWNERS - his WEALTHY chums! Of course he did - Tories are obsessed with WEALTHY LANDOWNERS (that is why we give them billions a year in EU subsidies and can save so much WHEN we exit the EU) and with eating BEEF (which MUST be ON THE BONE!).

    Report this comment

    Johnthebap

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Weel??? - well , of course!

    Report this comment

    Sonia Head

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Weel said sheringhamlocal - I agree wholeheartedly!

    Report this comment

    Sonia Head

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • This is the latest 'we are tougher than UKIP' quote. This plant is dangerous to humans as well as animals. Anyone clearing it would need protected clothing. Also, it mostly grows on the sides of our busiest roads and would be dangerous for those pulling it up. It would also be a pointless exercise as pulling out the plant disturbs the soil allowing seeds to germinate, which means it could make things worse. Smacks of breaking rocks to me!

    Report this comment

    Working Girl

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • You are ignorant FreedomF.Compare the cost of domestic energy in nice social-democratic Sweden with that of wicked Thatcherite UK. This paper is like a playground sometimes! Except you get more knowledgable comments in a playground

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Why not get children who's parents are receiving child tax credits to sweep chimneys & work down the coal mines while we are at it, we could put the unemployed into workhouses & round up all those foreigners & people we don't like and put them in camps.

    Report this comment

    sheringhamlocal

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Everyone claiming JSA should be made to work for the benefit of the community for 4 days a week. I know it would reduce daytime TV viewing figures but they would still have one day a week to watch TV or perhaps apply for the odd job or two!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Have a care about what you say billy or you'll be whisked off for a long stretch in a reducation camp!!

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • a recent poll gives ukip a massive lead in the upcoming by election . Ukip a party of the people

    Report this comment

    billy smith

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • This is Lord Tebbit, a prominent member of thatchers cabinet, who PRIVATISED all our Essential Services, so that we would be paying through the nose just to keep warm !, I know the eadt will not leave this comment on, but it is a pity the IRA didn't get him and thatcher !, they would have done us all a favour !

    Report this comment

    freedomf

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • Ive got an idea. How about MP's and the Lords doing this weedpulling for society, when they are all on their extended holidays ?. No. Thought not.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • I've no concerns about such a scheme being joined voluntarily by unemployed people, but the credibility of the proposer has long been undermined, and so even if he ever suggests something that may generally be considered a reasonable idea, it's unlikely in our polarised society that it would be well-received by a substantial majority... Oh, and it was Ernie Bevin, not Bevan - that surname applied to Aneurin Bevan of the same era.

    Report this comment

    MJB

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • I'm sure the Victorian views of this reactionary has-been will go down well with the UKIP tendency.

    Report this comment

    Origami Penguin

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

  • And that was (another) party political broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party from the 'Star'

    Report this comment

    Gobby

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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