Tories pledge benefit clampdown

David Cameron has pledged to take 200,000 people off benefits under new plans to be announced this week.

The Conservative leader says he is determined to remove healthy people from incapacity lists and get them back to work.

Writing in the News of the World ahead of a policy announcement, Mr Cameron insists that “far too many” can work but choose not to and promised to oversee medical checks for all 2.64 million people currently on benefits.

Further check-ups will be organised for those who are deemed unfit to work, while those seen to be well enough to find employment will be moved from full benefits to jobseekers’ allowance.

“Right now in Britain, nearly five million working-age men and women are out of work and on sick benefits,” Mr Cameron wrote in the newspaper.

“Many of those are recently unemployed or have serious long-term illnesses. But too many-far too many-are able to work but simply don’t.”

The government has accused Mr Cameron of simply copying its own ideas on benefit reform but the Tory leader has pointed the finger of blame squarely at Gordon Brown’s administration.

“There is a huge demand for labour – but Britain isn’t supplying it,” Mr Cameron continued.

“That’s a disgrace. And it’s Gordon Brown’s welfare system which is to blame.

“He’s now spending £100 billion a year in benefits – much of it paid to people not to work.

“Take incapacity benefit. To me, the most worrying sign is that nearly one in five claimants is aged under 35. I don’t believe that there are nearly half a million young people in Britain with a disability which prevents them from doing any work at all.”

The Conservative leader said the UK is in the midst of a “culture of despair” but that a Tory government will “end the ‘something-for-nothing’ culture”.

Responding to the proposals, pensions secretary Peter Hain accused the Tories of “plagiarising plans already announced by us”.

He said Mr Cameron’s party has “no credible plan” to reform the welfare system because of the savings it needs to make to fund the tax cut proposals announced last year.