Blair faces another revolt, this time over benefits crackdown

Days after tensions surfaced among ministers over education reforms and banning smoking in public places, moves by the Prime Minister to overhaul the incapacity benefit system have provoked government in-fighting.

As Mr Blair seeks to secure his legacy, resistance is also growing in Whitehall to his "respect agenda", including proposals for a fresh drive against antisocial behaviour. Mr Blunkett is understood to have sent a strongly worded letter late last week to Downing Street warning that he cannot accept demands to toughen up proposed legislation.

The Prime Minister's advisers are believed to be pressing for the means-testing of payments to ensure that better-off disabled claimants do not qualify.

They are also calling for a limit on the amount of time for which benefits can be claimed, and for some payments to be made in the form of vouchers for job-training schemes.

Other ideas being floated include naming those doctors who approve the most applications, and giving employers the right of appeal when an employee is signed off sick.

Mr Blunkett is said to have protested that any such measures would go too far and threaten to humiliate the disabled, as well as complaining over excessive interference in his department.

He is likely to be supported by several cabinet colleagues, and any such moves would also be guaranteed to spark a Commons rebellion among Labour backbenchers.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, conceded yesterday that there were divisions in the Cabinet over crucial issues. "These are all highly sensitive, highly controversial subjects," he told the BBC yesterday. "But they are what people are concerned about. And this Government has made absolutely plain we are going to be radical, we are going to push forward reforms. Because they are controversial, will not stop us doing them. We will do them and we will capture the future, because we will push forward reforms in all these areas."

But David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' work and pensions spokesman, said that the government squabbling was preventing urgently needed reform of the welfare system.

He said that Mr Blunkett was "weakened and distracted" while the Prime Minister was making up incapacity benefit policies "on the back of a fag packet".

Meanwhile, the Government is backing off from a suggested ban on drinking alcohol on all forms of public transport in an attempt to combat yobbery. It was among several ideas examined by Mr Blair's "respect unit", headed by Louise Casey, his antisocial behaviour tsar. The proposal was mocked yesterday as "nanny statism" by opposition parties and transport companies.

Last night a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "There aren't any plans to introduce a blanket ban on drinking on public transport. If it happens, it will be targeted to tackle a particular and specific problem."

Mr Blair has put his "respect agenda" at the heart of his personal programme before he steps down as Prime Minister.

The strategy was due to be published before Christmas but its publication could slip into the new year.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain