Watch this space


This looks promising. I've just obtained a bit more detail about Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke's Ten Minute Rule Bill, due for debate at 12.30pm, after question time today (the usual health warning - if there are ministerial statements or urgent questions, they'll come first).

His bill aims to introduce a Welfare Cash Card to encourage responsible spending by benefit claimants, and it mainlines right into the current row over welfare spending - and the strivers vs skivers meme that Conservatives are campaigning on.

The cash card would explicitly prohibit the purchases of luxuries such as cigarettes, alcohol and Sky TV. By 'topping up' a cash card as opposed to making cash payments, the government can ensure that welfare payments are being used for what they are intended; priority purchases such as food, energy, clothing, housing, travel, etc instead.

The objective, I'm told, is to encourage better financial planning as the new benefit, the Universal Credit, which will be paid monthly is phased in, with the aim of re-establishing the idea that benefits are a safety net for people who've fallen on hard times, and that the money paid out should be spent on essentials, not luxuries. It will be interesting to see if Labour oppose this and attempt to force a vote… because this bill takes aim directly at quite a sensitive spot.

And it's also worth remembering that this may not be quite the meaningless ritual combat that these bills led to in previous parliaments - this government has made a bit of a habit of taking up ideas floated by bright backbenchers in adjournment debates and Ten Minute Rule Bills, and putting them into action. The last Budget contained three.

So those interested in the arguments over the benefit culture should watch this space.

Mark D'Arcy Article written by Mark D'Arcy Mark D'Arcy Parliamentary correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    This will also drive up loan sharking and fraud with more people selling the cards for cash. They will sell their £45 card for £30 and thus reduce income.

    Loan sharks will be rubbing their hands in glee

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    question you got to ask youre selfs,when they have done benefit bashing whats left for them to bash

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    So this will mean I will have to get on a bus, and travel 11 miles to my nearest major supermarket rather than the local shops. Thus reducing the overall income for "essentials"? Only two groups of people will really be happy about this, Citi group and the big 4 supermarkets.

    What about fuel? We don't have gas and use wood that cant be bought at shops cheaply? Half baked...

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I think the card is a brilliant idea. It will encourage people to go out and find a job and then they can afford those luxuries. But.. i do know someone that is on benefits, because she cant find a job as she suffers from pain alot and can't even move maybe 1 week in a month. If the government can target the people who just 'cant be bothered' to work and give them the card that would be great.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I wonder how many big companies will earn out of this? If '4 is correct that's one big US bank, plus which supermarkets? Or maybe just one? Will people with these cards in rural areas be able to find a local place they can use them?
    I'm happy with my taxes not going on smokers buying fags.
    But the devil is in the detail, and there's a lot that needs sorting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I believe DWP have already awarded an 84 month 90million pound contract to Citi Bank (insolvent US monster) for the design, implimention and running of a card payment system for benefits claiments. Alec didn't get the memo? I gather you can make a pretty penny from the taxpayer. Ask JPM Morgan about the SNAP (foodstamps) programme they facilitate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    What a half baked you really know how those on the bread-line really survive? I'm not talking about the ducking & divers...Those real dis-advantaged folk, so next time instead of taking a taxi or bently walk around London or any major inner city or housing scheme! Crikey, if it was not for Mr Moderator, I'd use other words!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The best value food is often on market stalls. Where there is retail competition greengrocers and bakers can be cheaper than supermarkets.
    Unfortunately I can see that these cards will only be accepted by the national chains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Part of learning how to budget is ensuring that 'essentials' are prioritised over luxury items, though. Not to mention that the 'universal credit' is intended for anyone without sufficient earned income irrespective of why they are not earning: illness, disability, age, caring responsibilities or inadequate wages, as well as those who cannot find a job in the stagnant job market.


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