Coalition’s welfare policy ‘in shambles’

By Cassie Chambers

Labour has accused the government of being "in a shambles" following the prime minister's earlier speech announcing further cuts to welfare benefits.

Work and pension secretary Iain Duncan Smith faced tough questions in the House of Commons this afternoon as Labour relentlessly questioned government's current and future welfare policies.

The questions followed the prime minister's speech this morning, in which he made the case for cutting off housing benefits for under-25s and ending "the culture of entitlement".

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey suggested the proposal to end housing benefits for young people was "irresponsible" and the government should instead focus on creating "badly needed jobs and building badly needed homes".

Mr Duncan Smith responded that Labour's "spiralling budget" had created the need for these further welfare reforms, saying: "We'll take no lectures from him… about what is right or wrong over housing benefit."

Labour also accused the government of being inconsistent with its past welfare policy.

Former Treasury minister Stephen Timms stated: "Until today, the government has told us that benefit reform plus the work programme would sort out the welfare system. The prime minister this morning said they won't be enough".

He continued: "Will ministers now sort out this chaos and wouldn't lifting the ban on [work programme] data be a good place to start?"

Mr Timms went on to suggest that Mr Duncan Smith "holds the parliamentary record for abuse of statistics" and needs to "sort out the shambles in his department."

Mr Duncan Smith defended the government's record on welfare policy, replying: "Let me give… [Mr Timms] one piece of data: there are today 80,000 fewer people on out of work benefits than there were when his party was in power."

Mr Timms' accusations regarding his abuse of statistics were "a lot of nonsense", he claimed.