End of 'compassionate Conservatism' as David Cameron details plans for crackdown on welfare


David Cameron today signalled the end of “compassionate Conservatism” with plans for a crackdown on welfare spending for the young, the jobless and those with large families.

In a speech in Kent, which appeared designed to appeal to the Tory right, Mr Cameron demanded an end to what he called Britain's “culture of entitlement”.

He proposed:

* Removing or restricting some benefits from out-of-work families with large numbers of children. This could include cuts to child benefit;

* Scrapping housing-benefit payments to 380,000 under-25s, worth an average of £90 a week, forcing them to support themselves or live with their parents and saving the Government £2 billion a year;

* Making the long-term unemployed carry out full-time community work or lose all their benefits.

However a key section of the speech – briefed to reporters this morning – was omitted from the final version.

In it Mr Cameron was to suggest introducing more regional flexibility into welfare payments because benefit levels affected work incentives.

“Clearly wage rates vary around the country,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“What someone receives in benefits compared to what they potentially get by going into a job has an impact on the incentives they face.”

However in the end there was no mention of measure in his final remarks.

Although Mr Cameron said the ideas in his speech “might not win the government support” and could “rub people up the wrong way” polling shows huge public support for a crackdown on benefit payments.

A survey by YouGov for Prospect magazine found 94 per cent of Tory voters versus 59 per cent of Labour voters feel “the government pays out too much in benefits and welfare levels overall should be reduced”.

But the proposals are likely to encounter opposition from the Liberal Democrats and most of furthest reaching ideas will form part of the Tories next election manifesto.

Liberal Democrats sources have insisted that they will not allow measures penalising the vulnerable to pass during the lifetime of this Government.

In the speech Mr Cameron also ruled out means testing benefits for the elderly as a way of finding the extra £10 billion needed to balance Britain's books.

He said he would not renege on his election pledge to maintain universal state pensions, winter fuel allowances and free transport for the over 65s.

“Two years ago I made a promise to the elderly of this country and I am keeping it,” he said. “I was elected on a mandate to protect those benefits – so that is what we have done.”

Instead the Tories are likely to go into the election promising swingeing welfare cuts to eliminate the structural deficit at the expense of the young and jobless.

Signalling a harsh line on welfare payments, Mr Cameron argued the benefits system has become too skewed in favour of those who don't work.

“Compassion isn't measured out in benefit cheques," he said. “The time has come to have a real national debate and ask some fundamental, searching questions about working-age welfare: what it is actually for.”

He suggested new measures to stop jobless young people claiming housing benefit – suggesting they should live at home unless they have the means to support themselves – saving the Government nearly £2bn a year.

He added it was wrong that many young people in work has to stay at home because they didn't have enough cash to live on their own, while for the jobless “it's a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit”.

He will also said there should be limits on benefits for people who decide to have large families – despite not working.

“We have been encouraging working-age people to have children and not work, when we should be enabling working-age people to work and have children,” he said

He also suggested changes which will make jobless people do community work to get benefits.

“We have yet to introduce a system whereby after a certain period on benefits, everyone who was physically able to would be expected to do some form of full-time work helping the community, like tidying up the local park.”

Tory strategists believe the party should take a tough line on benefits at the next election – which Mr Cameron seems to accept.

“I am exploring these issues not just as leader of a coalition but as a leader of the Conservative Party who is looking ahead to the programme we will set out to the country at the next election.” 

He is unlikely to get support from the Liberal Democrats for any of the more radical welfare proposals.

“But the substance of these proposals could be supported by the Liberal Democrats,” a Lib Dem source said.

The Lib Dems are likely to go into the next election promising tax rises for the rich as a way of closing the budget deficit rather than cutting welfare.

Mr Cameron's proposals have also been attacked by charities and the Labour Party who say they are simplistic and could fuel a rise in homelessness – particularly amongst the young.

Balbir Chatrik from the homeless charity Centrepoint said: “These proposals will be catastrophic for young people and will lead to a significant increase in young homelessness, which is already on the rise. Most of the people we encounter can't go home. Many of them can't live at home safely. So what's going to happen to them?”

Campbell Robb, chief executive at Shelter, added: “It's outrageous that the government is considering undermining the housing safety net yet again.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said Mr Cameron had put worklessness to a record high.

“It's now very clear that a welfare revolution was all talk,” he said.

“Out-of-work benefits are going through the roof. Each week we hear of another new initiative, another crackdown, another test.

"Meanwhile in the real world, the cost of out-of-work benefits is up nearly £5 billion, housing benefit over £4 billion, the Work Programme is failing and the multibillion-pound Universal Credit scheme is running late and over budget.

"Welfare spending is going up under this Government because too many people are out of work, but at the last budget the Chancellor's priority was not help to get people into work but a tax cut for millionaires."

Suggested Topics
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home