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No welfare 'big bang'

A SENIOR minister will this week calm the Labour Left's fears of reforms to social security, arguing against sudden and dramatic changes to the welfare state, writes Stephen Castle.

Frank Field, Minister of State at the Department of Social Security, will use a set-piece speech to argue against a "big bang" in social-security reform.

Mr Field, will tell an audience at the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies: "I do not think that a big-bang approach would be the right one for welfare reformers today. There is no simple panacea." Instead he wants to spell out general principles for reform, but apply them in different ways to different groups.

Harriet Harman, Secretary of State for Social Security, has suggested that some benefits may be removed from the wealthy. In today's Observer she argues: "People do not like the idea of a means test on the poor but they may wear an affluence test."

The ministers may calm some of the fears expressed by Labour MPs before Christmas that low-income lone parents and disabled people would suffer from government reforms.