The Government signalled a return to the controversial employment policies of the 1980s last night, as the Work and Pensions Secretary revealed he was drawing up plans to "relocate" the unemployed to parts of the country where there are jobs. Echoing Norman Tebbit's call for the jobless to "get on their bikes" and find work, Iain Duncan Smith said he would be bringing forward proposals to encourage people to leave unemployment blackspots to seek better opportunities elsewhere.
Mr Duncan Smith complained that decades of employment planning had left the UK with a "static" workforce, and that people should be prepared to travel, even hundreds of miles, to escape joblessness.
He told The Sunday Telegraph that millions of people were "trapped in estates where there is no work" because, if they left their neighbourhoods to look for work, they could lose their council homes.
Mr Duncan Smith's blueprint for making the workforce "more mobile" would tackle the problem by enabling job-seekers to go to the top of the housing list in another area rather than giving up their right to a home.
"In Britain now we have workforces that are locked to areas, and the result of that is we have over five and a half million people of working age who simply don't do a job," said Mr Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader who inherited Lord Tebbit's former seat in Chingford.
"Often, they are trapped in estates where there is no work. To go to work from east to west London, or to Bristol, or whatever, is too much of a risk, because, if you up sticks and go, you will have lost your right to your house."
Lord Tebbit sparked a furore in 1981 when, as employment secretary in Margaret Thatcher's first government, he responded to the rising tide of joblessness by recalling how his father, in the 1930s, had got on his bike and looked for work.
Mr Duncan Smith announced last week a shake-up of housing benefit, and increased health checks for disability claimants, as part of the biggest cuts in public spending for decades.
Reforms will include measures to "make work pay", including changing the threshold at which claims are withdrawn, so that people who take work do not lose all their benefits. In addition, the "under-occupation" of large council homes will be tackled.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "We have tons of elderly people living in houses they cannot run and queues of desperate people with families who are living in one- and two-bedroom houses and flats."Reuse content