UK Politics

Prime Minister's Questions: Cameron and Miliband clash on work programme

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMiliband attacks work programme

PM David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed over the government's welfare-to-work programme aimed at helping the long-term unemployed.

Official figures showed the work programme had missed its main target for getting people sustained jobs.

Labour leader Mr Miliband said it was "failing" because the government had failed to deliver economic growth.

Mr Cameron insisted the programme was working and accused Labour of leaving a "poisonous" unemployment legacy.

He said: "Over 800,000 people have taken part in the work programme, of those over half came off benefits. And over 200,000 got into work because of the work programme."

The scheme was dealing with the "hardest cases" of long-term unemployed people, he said, and although further progress was needed it was "the right programme".

Under the scheme, firms and charities are paid to help find jobs for the long-term unemployed.

'Rats in a sack'

Figures released on Tuesday showed only 3.53% of people on the programme had found a job for six months or more - missing the coalition's 5.5% target.

Mr Miliband accused cabinet ministers of being "at each other like rats in a sack" over the economy and problems with the flagship employment scheme.

"His welfare reform programme is failing because there isn't the work and his economic strategy is failing," Mr Miliband said of Mr Cameron.

"He has a work programme that isn't working, a growth strategy that is not delivering and a deficit that is rising.

"It is a government that is failing, a prime minister that is failing and it is the British people that are paying the price for his failure."

But Mr Cameron said his government was dealing with the people "Labour left on the scrap heap".

Labour was now "officially the party of something for nothing," he said, because it failed to back reforms to welfare.

The work programme was "good value" for the taxpayer and was succeeding in getting people into work, he added.

The government has said it expects the scheme to help 2.4 million people back into work over five years.

Providers can earn between £3,700 and £13,700 per person helped into work, depending how hard it is to give support to an individual, with an initial payment of between £400 and £600.

Leveson Inquiry

Joining the work programme is mandatory for people aged over 25 when they have been out of work for a year and for under-25s after nine months. People in certain circumstances, like young offenders, must join after a shorter period of time.

Mr Cameron was also asked about the report from the Leveson Inquiry into the culture and ethics of the press, which is due to be published on Thursday.

He said: "The status quo is unacceptable and needs to change."

He pledged to work across party boundaries and said he wanted to see an "independent regulatory system that can deliver, and in which the public will have confidence".

Mr Miliband said the Leveson report provided a "once-in-a-generation opportunity for real change" and backed an all-party approach.

Other topics which came up during Prime Minister's Questions included the flooding seen this week in England and Wales.

Mr Cameron paid tribute to the emergency services and "good neighbours" who had helped those affected by the floods and expressed his sympathies for those who had lost their lives.

But he defended government cuts to spending on flood defences.

"The government is planning to spend over £2 billion over the next four years.

"That is 6% less than over the previous four years, but we believe by spending the money better and by leveraging from private and other sectors we can increase that level of flood defence spending.

"The spending that is already under way will protect an additional 145,000 homes between now and 2015 but if we can go further, of course we should," he said.

More on this story