Labour under attack for '£340bn benefits bill'

Britain's welfare system has created a 'dependency culture', Tories claim
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Indy Politics

More than £340bn has been paid in state benefits to the jobless since Labour came to power in 1997, the Tories will disclose today.

Theresa May, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, will accuse Labour of failing to tackle Britain's "dependency culture" despite repeated pledges to reform the welfare system. She will publish a Tory analysis showing more than £106bn has been paid in housing benefit to people out of work since 1997, £92bn in incapacity benefit, £90bn in income support, £36bn in jobseeker's allowance and £20bn in council tax benefit.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank today, Ms May will say: "The benefit bill for Labour's 12 years of welfare dependency totals over £300bn. But the social consequences of this failure have been even greater."

She will cite communities in Britain where more than half of working age adults are unemployed and say that almost one in five children in the UK grow up in households dependent on jobless benefits.

"Worklessness has become a generational problem, passed from father to son, mother to daughter. Report after report has laid out the problems children growing up in workless households face: they are more likely to fail at school, become involved in criminal behaviour, develop addictions to drink and drugs and ultimately end up workless themselves. A vicious cycle has emerged," she will say.

Ms May will add: "The tragedy is that we're talking about real people here, people who feel they have no future, who can't imagine getting a job, who don't know anyone else with a job. Recession or no recession, it makes no difference to their lives. They have been trapped on benefits for as long as they can remember and they can't see any chance of getting out."

But Jim Knight, the Employment Minister, accused the Tories of "utter hypocrisy", claiming that they trebled the number of people on incapacity benefit to keep down the jobless figures during previous recessions. He said: "The Tories would abandon people again today. If Theresa May wants to get serious about tackling worklessness she should stop opposing our £5bn programme to deliver real jobs and help people into work."

Labour insisted that the cost of unemployment benefit was three times higher during the years of Tory rule before 1997 than since.

Official figures published yesterday showed more than one in six UK homes which house at least one person of working age do not have anyone in employment – the highest rate since 1999.

The number of workless households hit 3.3 million in the period from April to June, a rise of 240,000 compared with a year earlier. And a further study by the Chartered Management Institute of almost 46,000 adults, published today, shows women workers are more likely to hold onto their jobs in the recession.

£92bn

The amount the Tories say has been spent on incapacity benefits since 1997.

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