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July 20, 2008


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Paul Flynn

Ray Marlowe, Thanks for your comment. Hope you come back to the party - we need you.

Our stealth socialism was not a Tory idea. It's been a good record of redistribution with the minimum wage, child benefits, tax credits plus massive investments in Health, Education and Social Security.

Look at the rest of blog and you will find Classic Labour progressive views. There is a real problem with about a million people who can live richer fulfilling lives if their escape from benefit dependency. That's not Left or Right, it's common sense.

Ray Marlowe

Paul, Do you really believe this lurch to thr Right on your part, and others who should frankly know better, is really going to help the party at the next election?

I was, until last year a member of the Labour Party, but I am sorry to say the constant poaching of Conservative Party ideas finally turned my stomach and I ended my association with the party, which goes back 25 years.

I have to say reading your replies to some of the messages above that you seem to regard anyone who doesn't agree with you either as fools or idiots. Not a very edifying stance on your part.

Paul Flynn

Clearly it was my mistake Alan to treat your e-mails as serious. You are out to wind me u .

Your conclusions are ridiculous. The nightmare you describe exists only in your head. Read again what I have written. There is abuse of the welfare system which helps no-one- especially not the dependent HEALTHY claimants.

You invent an absurdity, then attack it. This comments section is for an exchange of views between thinking people. It's not for abusive rants - try another blog

Paul Flynn

Clearly it was my mistake Alan to treat your e-mails as serious. You are out to wind me up, .

Your conclusions are ridiculous. The nightmare you describe exists only in your head. Read again what I have written. There is abuse of the welfare system which helps no-one- especially not the dependent HEALTHY claimants.

Paul Flynn

Dear Alan. It's not unreasonable to expect healthy people, who have lived on benefits for a couple of years, to do work that is of benefit to the community. It would break the pattern of their work-free lives.

The best example are the Eastern Europeans, with little English, who get stuck into work within 24 hours of arriving here.I have never cleaned up graffiti but I have done many low paid jobs which were infinitely preferable to life on benefits.

On 60s year olds there are varying claims. Some civil Servants are furious that they have to retire in the prime of life, others say it's part of their deal. Plenty of people wish to work until 70 and beyond to reflect the improved health of the present generation. It cannot be sensible for the majority of people to spend a third of their lives in retirement.


Mr Flynn: With respect you do not answer my second question: Yes, as you admit, age discrimination will be with us for a long time yet, unless the government took draconian measures against employers (and that would'nt go down very well with John "business friendly" Hutton, would it?) but in the meantime Purnell and his pal Freud's amateur welfare reforms start in a coupole of years. Will the government treat men and women approaching 60 with the same lack of courtesy and understanding that they intend using on younger people? The graffiti gangs, scraping chewing gum off the pavement?

I would put it to you it is not only what Purnell said but HOW he said it: he comes over as arrogant, self-satisified and smug, with little understanding of the real world. He is, after all only 38, has had a priveleged life since private education in France, and apart from a short spell at the BBC has had a life in politics.

Can you answer that question: will the government treat people nearing retirement age in this high handed manner?. If the answer is yes, then he is just as bad as the Tories Grayling.

A straight answer to a straight question would be appreciated.


Your criticism of Freud may well be valid but they do not destroy the value of his conclusions. I'm generally cynical about the value of outside consultants.

Poverty' today is relative poverty and worlds way from the poverty of my childhood or the poverty of the developing world. MPs are in contact with thousands of people in all circumstances.


age discrimination will not be rapidly eliminated. It's nature that is responsible for the main discrimination on the aged.


Mr Flynn:

Two questions:

Purnell, your pal, is implementing the David Freud report in full. Freud is a multimillionaire investment banker. What the hell does he know about poverty - or welfare?

He admitted he knew nothjing about welfare "before I started mny report" in a Daily Telegraph" artiucle in February.

Juding by this amateurs remarks in that article he kb=new nothjing more at the end of it. For example, he tried to tell Telegraph readers that it was the claimants own GP who put them on IB. It is not, as you well know: it is an independent doctor appointed by the DWP

2) Despite New Labours otiose "anti age discrimination" employers still discriminate against older workers. Are men and women approaching 60 and unable to find work going to be treated like criminals as well?

PLease answer these questions Mr Flynn, otherwise you will look just like another Brown/Purnell lackie who doesn't have the least idea how people outside parliament - REAL people - live.


Sadly SeaGen's turbine blades have been damaged a few hours into trials due to a "computer programming fault which affected the operation of one of the turbines". Computer software errors hit all to many projects big & small. It will be out of operation for many months while new blades are purchased.


Adam J

All serious academic research shows that governments target of cutting those on incapacity benefit by a million over the next decade is unrealisable, therefore individuals are going to be unjustly penalised.

See this paper:


"It is important not to place too much weight on the detailed output from any forecasting exercise of this kind. What matters are the directions of anticipated change and the broad orders of magnitude. Our analysis does, however, point to a number of conclusions:

The headline number of IB claimants will show no tendency to fall away as a cohort of former industrial workers currently on IB finally reaches pension age.

Rolling out the Pathways to Work initiative at its current effectiveness could be expected to reduce the number of IB claimants by around half a million in 10 years.

Reaching the government's target of one million off IB would require the proposed reforms to have an overall impact equivalent to double the current impact of Pathways to Work rolled out across the whole country.

There are enough ‘hidden unemployed’ on incapacity benefits to allow a reduction in IB claimant numbers of one million, but only if the reduction is heavily skewed to the North, Scotland and Wales.

Employment growth in the North, Scotland and Wales would need to accelerate sharply, or other sources of new labour supply would need to dry up, if big reductions in IB claimant numbers are to be absorbed.

In the North, Scotland and Wales the required reduction in IB claimant numbers substantially exceeds the reduction in claimant unemployment since 1997.

Having an overall policy impact on IB claimant numbers equivalent to double the current impact of Pathways to Work, and delivering that impact across the whole country, is a tall order. But it is the last three points, regarding the regional dimension, that really expose the weakness in the strategy to lower IB claimant numbers. Put simply, there seems little prospect of achieving the one million target without a sustained acceleration in employment growth in the North, Scotland and Wales. In the absence of this growth, the most likely outcome in these regions is that most or all of any reduction in IB claimant numbers will simply boost the numbers in other jobless groups, including the claimant unemployed.
We would question whether the policies are in place to deliver this acceleration in regional job growth. Nationally, the long period of economic growth driven by consumer spending and rising debt may be drawing to a close, and public finances preclude further big increases in public sector employment. In the North, Scotland and Wales, big reductions in EU regional aid will begin to bite from 2007 onwards. The upshot is that we think it unlikely that over the next few years the economies of the North, Scotland and Wales will be able to absorb the very big reductions in IB claimant numbers that the government needs to hit its one million target.

If a reduction in IB claimant numbers of one million within 10 years is not practicably attainable, at least within the present economic and policy context, there are important implications for the government's proposed reforms. In particular, the government needs to recognise that in introducing Employment and Support Allowance to replace IB it is perhaps unreasonable to apply a blanket expectation to all but the most severely ill claimants to undertake ‘return to work’ activity. For a great many IB claimants the prospects of a successful return to work are likely to remain slim, partly because of their health or impairments, partly because of complicating factors such as poor qualifications and skills, and partly because of the difficult labour markets they face in some parts of the country. They are unlikely to be employers' first choice.

There is little point in raising false hopes among men and women who, by virtue of age, skills, ill health or location, are likely to find re-entry into the labour market highly problematic. Compulsion is likely to be unpopular, and it does not make sense to target time and resources at men and women who will resent the intervention. The government's aspiration to deliver a reduction of one million in IB claimant numbers may be laudable, but until all the UK regions are capable of absorbing big numbers back into work it would be best to proceed sensitively and pragmatically."

Rather than the government's war on the poor, how about a war on the rich, you could stop giving them endless tax breaks for a start. It's a fact, Tory and New Labour cut tax for the rich, but the money has to come from somewhere so working class and poor people have to pay more.

The real parasites in our society are not people on incapacity benefit, but the people in charge of privatised utilities such as railways, gas and electricity companies making record profits while putting up our bills - but you will see no New Labour ministers seeing tackling these crooks as a priority!

Huw O'Sullivan

Well if we are talking purely in terms of IB
I was looking at that earlier this year when Cameron decided that he did not believe x number of people were really incapable of work.
He obviously had no survey results or even expert opinion to go on, just his "belief"

You are sort of right when you say that the numbers on IB are more or less static
May 1995 2.74 million
Feb 2005 2.68 million,
The population has grown of course, so the percentage on IB has fallen.

But why have some people been on IB for over 10 years, could it be, perhaps that they are genuinely disabled and unable to work. Do we normally expect people to be cured of their disabilities due to a booming economy and at a time of full employment.
By all means we should do all we can to enable people with disabilities to work if they wish to do so.
But with even the changes so far, I have already started hearing of people who are genuinely unable to work and in constant pain having their IB withdrawn.

Attacks on IB like attacks on welfare are attacks on the ordinary people of this country and originate with the very well off indeed. I am sorry you find yourself falling with relative ease onto that side of the argument on this occasion, I don't believe this one thing represents your overall views very well.

I am all for reforms in general, I find however that used in relation to welfare of any kind it tends to mean, cutting bills.
By all means let a government plead poverty but that never seems to happen for pet projects like unbudgeted and illegal wars (oh come on you knew I'd mention it).
There was 5 billion that could have been used for something useful.
The biggest problem with IB is that a growing number of young people are going on it, this is likely due to lifestyle issues that are leaving people in poor health before or by the time they reach adulthood.
We actually have a fairly good idea of the causes here and need to address them.


You might be interested to note, also, Mr Flynn that such sentiments pre-date even the 1920s.

The Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 sought to define the poor as 'impotent', 'able-bodied' or 'idle'.

I'm not heartened at all about the quality of debate so far: e.g. "You're sounding like a Thatcherite."


The 'dole' was not a precise expression Huw. I was talking about the 'sick' Incapcity Benefit. Certainly those claiming unemplyment benefit has fallen dramatically.

Somebody wrote a thesis in the 1920s named "in search of a scrounger". The myths have always been used to attack the level of benefits. In the past I have argued as you do against the demonisation of the unemployed. But we have been through a period of almost full employment for the able bodied. There is no reason why the numbers on Incapacity Benefit has not dropped substantially.

Society is being conditioned to believe that relatively minor disabilities and illnesses turn people into lifelong invalids.

Huw O'Sullivan

In 1986 the number of people on the dole was about 10.6% of the workforce. In 2006 it was around 3%. But now with the economy tanking we can expect unemployment to rise, the first signs are already here, and just in time, new labour policies are there to force work out of these welfare scroungers.

It is traditionally tory policy when things get tight to screw the poorest and now new labours too.

From 1998 and 2008 government spending on welfare has gone from 16.6% of gdp to 11.4%
(it was 27.3% in 1986 for those who are interested)

Long term unemployed require a different approach, there are usually issues of education, capability or mental health which contribute to this without there being official recognition of these needs.

And yes, I am sure there are some people abusing the system, it is after all a system and all systems are abused by some. The recent debates on MP's expenses help to demonstrate that. But what there is not is some kind of systematic or endemic abuse. So this legislation is there to correct an issue that does not exist.

It is traditionally those lacking in wealth who get targetted when finances are tighter and it is traditionally tory policies that do just that, and it is traditional tory policies that are at the heart of new labour.

Paul you say numbers on the dole have hardly changed in the past ten years Peter Hain in January claimed
That under the "new deal" new Labour had slashed claimant unemployment by almost half in the last ten years.


Well that's interesting. Having been in parliament through two Tory welfare reforms of Norman Fowler and Peter Lilley (JSA and CSA)I can assure that this one lacks the malice of the Tory ones.

Do you really think that there is no large scale abuse? The fugure of million is very convincing from my experience.The most dispirting of all is the inherited lack of expection that life has nothing to offer but perpetual benefits. It locked generation into cycles of near poverty.

In the past few years eastern Europeans have found no difficulty in finding jobs the day after they arrive here than our long term have not been able to find in years of job seeking. People with disabling ailments that make manual labour impossible give up and avoid re-training that would give them the dignity of work. Workplaces have been changed so that it's possible to get access to them and work efficiently from a wheelchair. Those with depressive illnesses are harmed by long periods without work.

The numbers on the dole have hardly changed in the past ten years of rising employment. What other solutions are on offer?

Huw O'Sullivan

Nice to see this continuation of New Labour simply taking Tory policy as their own.
It is a little greedy though given that the tories have trouble finding two policies to rub together, although yes it is more than having no policies at all (just about).
All part of the cunning plan to ensure there is no policy reason to vote for the tories, of course when there are no policy reasons to vote for one party rather than another, people have to come up with different reasons, does the party leader smile a lot, would I like to have a pint with him.
In the states a key requisite is to not appear any smarter than anyone else and so pig ignorance will get you elected to the highest office in the land, so long as there is a heap of money behind you.

Its hardly surprising the tories are keen on long term unemployed getting back to work, they've been effectively unemployed and unemployable for more than a decade now.

The two parties should officially merge ending this shambolic pretence.
What kind of name can you get from a mix of New Labour and Tory, while anagrams are not my thing I couldn't help but see what it would actually be. Turns out when you combine the two you simply get,
A worn blue tory.

Adam Johannes

To be frank, Paul you come across as a bit of a Thatcherite in this post. Surely this is the same process as the Tories in the 80s of scapegoating and demonising marginalised groups to deflect attention from the fact that is New Labour's Tory policies that are the cause of major problems in our society.

Increasingly the government is having a crisis of legitimacy - the war, credit crisis etc - and is trying to cohere people through a reactionary solidarity based on authoritarian populism.

This is based on whipping up public hostility towards appropriate scapegoats and a government offensive against the sick, poor, unemployed, migrants, muslims etc. as if these people are the major problems in our society. The gov. want to replace the traditional sick note with a "well note" where it is decided what you are well enough to do, as part of draconian welfare reform, this goes hand in hand with populist policies on law and order & migration.

To paraphrase the black abolitionist, Frederick Douglas: they divide each, to conquer all.

A number of public statements from politicians recently have had an edge to them - wasting food (Brown), take responsibility for yourself (cameron), the thing about how the last 15 years have been very affluent for most, so stop complaining (Purnell), all seem to be testing out a new way of talking to people.

This is the alternative set of proposals set out by Ipswich Trades Council and now policy of the National Trades Councils - adopted at its recent Conference, some of the resolution will have to ammended to deal with the new details of the forced labour programme Purnell offers:

MOTION ON WELFARE REFORM taken from Ipswich and District Trades Union Council to Suffolk County Association of Trades Union Councils, were it was passed unanimously for inclusion on the Agenda of the Trades Union Councils Annual Conference.

Conference notes that the Prime Minister has made Welfare Reform a centrepiece of his financial strategy. His advisers aim to remove 1.9 million people from Incapacity/Invalidity allowances, and make the right to Social Housing and Benefit dependant on job-seeking and skills tests, with greater elements of compulsion, up to the age of 60, to take part in the New Deal scheme.

We are concerned that the principles underpinning New Deal are flawed; we note that
- The DWP does not directly run any New Deal scheme to prepare claimants for work.
- Contracts for training and placements in firms and voluntary bodies are employer led, with terms and conditions of work often outside regulations and hidden from public scrutiny.
- The widespread use of work-placements undermines the conditions of existing workers and has already meant a large-scale replacement by the Jobless, for those convicted by the Courts, undertaking Community Service.
- There is no provision for claimants to join trade unions, with many New Deal companies not recognising Trades Unions.
- The criteria to get Benefits now include obligatory participation in training or work placements
- Reforms are introduced with no consultation by those most affected, ie the claimants
- The defects of the system affects employees of the DWP and those working for providers in both the private and public sectors. Harassed claimants do not make easy customers

Those on New Deal, from Gateway, Job Search and Training Centres to Placements are increasingly vulnerable to exploitation;

- they have no employment rights
- there are no tribunals to judge cases of alleged abuse
- there are a number of claims that some employers use the system to obtain free(subsidised) labour.
- Training Schemes rarely match the level of recognised qualifications, with some being placed on week-long ‘Job Searches’, with no training whatsoever.
- Placements are sketchily supervised and the payment (Benefit plus £15 a week) is derisory for what is approaching full-time employment.
- The potential for harassment and bullying is evident, with no-one responsible for independent arbitration.

For these reasons Conference demands

1. An independent review of the entire Welfare-to-Work programme.
2. A genuine training system, with real qualifications which are job-transferable and taught to fit the standards of Vocational College courses.
3. Ensure that all instructors have been police-checked and providers can show that their instructors are fully qualified. (amendment from Bedfordshire TUC – accepted)
4. Ensure that adequate insurance cover is provided for people undertaking these programmes. (amendment from Bedfordshire TUC – accepted)
5. Properly paid placements in work that acknowledge genuine experience and fulfil criteria such as social need and skills development.
6. A system of independent supervision and arbitration
7. An end to compulsion.

Conference recognises that full employment is an important goal. Provision for those unable to work should be based on the principle of ‘work or maintenance’.
Workfare is profoundly unjust, which will reduce claimants to dependency. In it’s place we should aim for real jobs, a decent level of benefits, training at college and apprenticeship standards.

Motion from Suffolk TUC to Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils, held in Sheffield 14th and 15th June 2008.

Moved by Roger MacKay, Ipswich TUC


I find it a little depressing that the media don't appear to be trying to encourage a better debate about this. They seem happy with the same tired 'on-yer-bikers' versus 'bleeding heart liberals'.

Surely everyone can agree it's better to work, if possible, for people and for society. A lot of claimants actually do want to work but for a variety of reasons are not.
The debate should be: will these measures bring about the desired effect?

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