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.

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