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

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  • 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 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 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 19.

    Whilst it sounds at first glance like a reasonable idea, it will require a huge IT system of some kind.....

    ....and we all know how good Govt. is at procuring large, complicated, expensive IT systems......

    ....and retailers would have to sign up to it too......

    ....which begs the question will it pass the UK's Data Protection Act...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This will be like shaming 'poor' kids for having to claim free school meals in front of their friends. How about some sort of fabric badge to sew onto our clothes too? If my benefits covered booze I'd be happier but £71 a week doesn't even cover food, 'phone and car (the last 2 needed for job hunting in the 'sticks') let alone my medication or, dare I say, Christmas. Out of touch Tories again.


Comments 5 of 29



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