Frontbench Labour MP attacks Government's 'soft' approach to 'work-shy'

9 February 2011

Former advisor to Gordon Brown, John Woodcock MP, today criticises the Coalition Government for taking too soft a line with unemployed benefit claimants. Woodcock argues that 'work for your benefit' programmes should be mandatory and permanent for long-term jobseekers, and castigates the Government for undoing Labour's tough reforms.

In a new collection of policy essays by leading new MPs, Shadow Transport Minister Woodcock - a former advisor to John Hutton as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - condemns the Coalition Government's abolition of Labour's Flexible New Deal programme, removing with it the mandatory work requirement for long-term jobseekers. The new Work Programme contains no such requirement.

As Woodcock says, "One of the most remarkable, yet least remarked upon, changes ushered in by the new Government was the way in which ... obligations have been weakened so far, rather than strengthened".

Woodcock suggests that reforms should go further and that compulsory work activity should be permanent for long-term recipients of benefits. Woodcock also suggests that claimants who fail to engage with mandatory work should lose their benefits.

Writing in the new book, John Woodcock MP says: "It is extremely unlikely that the removal of mandatory work for the long-term unemployed and the Government's plans for a small scale mandatory work programme left to the discretion of JobCentre advisers are going to be sufficient to really change the basic deal between individual and state in a far reaching and lasting way"

Other contributors to The Class of 2010 book include the following:

  • Matthew Hancock MP, former Chief of Staff to George Osborne MP, who argues that public spending cuts can lead to private sector growth and offering a robust defence of the Government's composition and timing of deficit reduction.
  • Rachel Reeves MP, Shadow Pensions Minister, criticises the Government for the speed at which state pension age is set to increase and the switch from the uprating of benefits in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Price Index (RPI).
  • Sam Gyimah MP, the former CBI entrepreneur of the year and Bow Group Chairman, argues that supply-side expansion of the HE sector will make universities more competitive, delivering better returns for graduates and the wider economy.
  • Stephen Gilbert MP, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, attacks some of the Government's decisions on planning and housing benefit. Gilbert suggests new policies to drastically increase the number of homes built to support young adults on to the housing ladder and to protect the rights of those in the rented sector.
  • Duncan Hames MP, new Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham and formerly an accountant with Deloitte, writes about a new sustainable model for economic growth in the aftermath of the recession, which better values caring, volunteering and the environment.

Ends

Notes for Editors:

The Class of 2010, a new book by the Social Market Foundation with essays from six new MPs from three main political parties, is published on 10 February 2011.

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