Page last updated at 19:11 GMT, Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Welfare-to-work: Labour laments 'catalogue of failure'

The government's welfare-to-work polices have been a "catalogue of failure", shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne has said.

Opening an opposition-day debate on 28 November 2012, Mr Byrne said spending on welfare was spiralling as a result of mistakes made on the government's flagship work programme.

Recent figures show that the scheme missed its main target of ensuring that 5.5% of those taking part in the scheme find a job for six months or more. Over the 13 months from June 2011 to July 2012, 31,000, or 3.5%, of the 878,000 people who joined the programme had found a job for six months or more.

"It is clear there is not enough fuel in the tank," Mr Byrne said.

"The government spent something like £63m closing down the flexible New Deal, a programme that was getting more people into sustainable jobs than the work programme and was costing something like 9.5% more per job outcome.

"So what the government has effectively done is shut down a system that was working, spent an awful long time getting something back up, and then overseen a programme that has dramatically failed to hit the target set for it in the first year.

"It is a catalogue of failure."

He called on MPs to back Labour's motion, claiming that "just over two in every hundred people referred to the Work Programme in its first year have gone into work". This represented "a worse outcome than no programme at all", it continued.

But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said this constituted "one of the stupidest motions I have ever had the problem of having to deal with".

The motion also called on the government "to implement a bank bonus tax to fund a Real Jobs Guarantee for young people".

But Mr Duncan Smith said the opposition "wheeled out" the bankers' bonus tax idea "whenever they get into a corner".

The work programme was "on track" and would be "placing some of the most difficult people back into work", he contended.

What Labour should be doing, he said, was "telling us what would they do instead, where there would make the necessary savings, and how they would reform welfare".

At the end of the debate, MPs rejected Labour's arguments by 283 votes to 212, a government majority of 71.

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