UK Politics

In quotes: Reaction to David Cameron welfare speech

David Cameron has spoken about future reform of the welfare system after the next general election, arguing the current system promotes a "something-for-nothing" culture of entitlement. He said housing benefit restrictions for under-25s and extra curbs on the jobseekers' allowance could form part of a future Conservative manifesto. Here is some of the reaction.

Chris Grayling, Employment Minister

You have to start with some basic principles. What we have been saying is we have to have a welfare state which is not a place in which you live but which is a ladder up which you climb. All too often over the course of the last decades as our current welfare state has built up, it has become a place in which people live.

What we want to do is to rebalance between those people who are on benefits and those people who are in work to make sure that really we are not creating a different world for those people on benefits.

Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary

David Cameron has put worklessness to a record high and he's inviting us to believe that it's the fault of everyone except him. It's now very clear that a welfare revolution was all talk. Out-of-work benefits are going through the roof. Each week we hear of another new initiative, another crackdown, another test.

Meanwhile in the real world, the cost of out-of-work benefits is up nearly £5bn, housing benefit over £4bn, the Work Programme is failing and the multibillion-pound Universal Credit scheme is running late and over budget. Welfare spending is going up under this government because too many people are out of work, but at the last budget the chancellor's priority was not help to get people into work but a tax cut for millionaires.

Campbell Robb, Shelter

At a time when many young people are facing significant difficulties in finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere else to go. They would also present serious problems for vulnerable young people, for example care leavers and those who have experienced family breakdown. Currently over half of young people who rely on housing benefit to pay a private landlord will be on benefits for less than six months while they are unemployed and look for work.

And since previous changes to housing benefit will force people with spare rooms to downsize and penalise those with adult children living at home, these policies appear completely contradictory. It's outrageous that the government is considering undermining the housing safety net yet again. Sadly it seems inevitable that we'll see an increase in homelessness as a result.

Harriett Baldwin, Conservative member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee

I think it's right to say, is it compassionate to have a situation where a young person, whose family has never been in the benefits system and stays at home in their childhood bedroom until they're old enough to move out on their own, who then looks across the road and sees someone who, because they have always been in the benefits system, immediately presents to their housing association and is able to move into accommodation?

Mark Littlewood, Institute of Economic Affairs

The language David Cameron used was not heartless. The welfare bill is now easily the largest facing the government. We spend more on it than anything else... There's a question of how quickly they can phase in these reforms. If you do give people notice, I think you can be pretty confident most people will adapt.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary

This looks like a government which simply does not understand how precarious life can be for millions who work hard and play fair. The real issue with our welfare state is that it isn't giving most people the real help they need, not that it's too generous.

Peter Lilley, Conservative former Social Security Secretary

Given that there are now 400,000 more jobs in the economy, the bulk of which have been taken by people who, by and large, are not eligible for benefits because they are workers from abroad, may it not be a spur to some people, if they lose their entitlement to benefit for good cause, to get jobs and thus we will see more jobs going to British people?

Fiona Weir, chief executive of single-parent charity Gingerbread

The prime minister needs to focus on delivering the welfare reform changes already enacted, not thinking up a new round of punitive measures that will stoke up financial hardship, relationship strain and stigma for hundreds of thousands of families.

Brendan Sarsfield, chief executive of Family Mosaic

Abusers of the housing benefit system do exist, but just like tax dodgers, or MPs that fiddle their expenses, they are a minority. Government policy needs to built on an evidence base and common sense, not myths that pre-date the Victorian workhouse.