Legislation is being proposed that would force claimants to use benefit money for 'responsible' spending only. The Conservative MP behind the Welfare Cash Card Bill, Alec Shelbrooke, is acting in a personal capacity – although he also serves as a junior government minister.
Under the Bill, a 'welfare cash card' would be introduced to replace cash payments for most benefits. The card would allow claimants to make only priority purchases such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing. The purchase of so-called 'luxury' goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and satellite television subscriptions would be prohibited.
Speaking in Parliament, Shelbrooke said:
- '[The Bill] will alter the spending habits of a minority who for far too long have taken advantage of the system, getting something for nothing.'
- 'The "something for nothing" culture encouraged by the previous Labour Government created a two-tier benefits system in which the strivers and low paid-workers were penalised for the idleness of the shirkers.'
- 'When hard-working families up and down the country are forced to cut back on such non-essential, desirable and often damaging items – NEDD items, as I call them – it is right that taxpayer-funded benefits should be used to fund only essential purchases.'
- 'Beveridge had such a high opinion of society that he thought nobody would want to choose not to work. The last decade has proved otherwise, however, with the previous Government allowing an epidemic to fester. It is now time to modify the system so that this socially destructive state-funded way of living is no longer an option.'
Shelbrooke clarified that his Bill would not apply to pensions or disability benefits.
The Bill has little or no chance of proceeding without government support. However, the Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC: 'I’ve been looking at this process to figure out whether it’s feasible, how would it work, how does it match with legal obligations, so we’ve already been examining this.'
Source: Welfare Cash Card Bill, Alec Shelbrooke MP, TSO
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