Labour backs Brown plan to cut youth dole

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The Labour leadership is to rally round Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, in a show of unity today in defence of his controversial plans to cut the dole for young people who refuse training places and to withdraw child benefit from the parents of 16-18-year-old students.

Tony Blair, the Labour leader, and shadow Cabinet members David Blunkett, Jack Straw and Chris Smith, will join Mr Brown on the platform this morning to launch a pounds 1.6bn "New Deal for the Lost Generation," combining training and work schemes.

Mr Brown's plan to cut income support for under-25s if they refuse work or training places split the shadow Cabinet when he floated it in November. It has been under fire at all levels of the Labour Party.

A document to be considered at a policy-making forum in Manchester at the weekend will not endorse the policy explicitly, but will say the young unemployed have a "responsibility" to seek work or take up the other options a Labour government would provide, including training, voluntary work and work on a green clean-up task force. These schemes would all pay extra, on top of benefits. And it concludes that the package will ensure that "prolonged spells on benefit are not an option".

It also contains a commitment to review child benefit for 16-18-year- olds as part of a review of public funding for education and training. Mr Brown is expected today to repeat his insistence that Labour must make "tough choices" over the allocation of resources.

He will be backed by Stephen Byers, Labour's spokesman on training, who has published a new analysis of official figures which show fewer than half of households with 16-18-year-olds gain from child benefit.

The benefit is paid only to mothers of 16-18s in full-time education and is deducted from the income of the 11 per cent of households on social security benefits.

The document on which today's launch is based was approved last week by the powerful joint policy committee of the shadow Cabinet and National Executive. It is expected to come under attack from party activists in Manchester on Saturday.

Chris Smith, Labour's social security spokesman, has been added to today's line-up to demonstrate shadow Cabinet unity, in the wake of a struggle in which Mr Brown blocked his wider-ranging policy paper on incentives to move people from "welfare into work".

This substantial paper, which has already been drafted, will not now be considered by the Manchester policy forum.

Party insiders doubt a version will be included in Labour's pre-election manifesto, which is due to be drafted in June, put to the party conference in October and then put to a ballot of party members in December.