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Frank Field would complete the Tories’ welfare reform jigsaw

17 May 2010

So now the coalition stretches as far as Labour, with the news that Frank Field is being
lined up as an anti-poverty advisor for the government.  In itself, this is an encouraging development: Field
is one of decent men of Westminster – committed, informed and passionate.  But when you look at it beside the Tories’ other appointments in this area, then it really becomes
exciting.  Field, IDS, Grayling and Lord Freud – all are deeply knowledgable about the welfare reform agenda, to the point where it’s difficult to think of many more impressive teams in
recent political history.  So perhaps there is hope for this most difficult of policy areas, after all.

One thing to look out for is whether Field bolsters the government’s message on immigration.  He has long advocated a cap on immigration, and stressed this morning that this has to be considered in any discussion about
reducing poverty.  With the Labour leadership candidates looking to outflank the
Tories on this, then Field’s involvement could turn out to be crucial.

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  • Robert

    Lets see Freud who was a mate of Blair’s, came into welfare and benefits saying I’ve no idea of any of this, I’ll need to read a few books , he did and the welfare came.

    I’m disabled, I was working on day came to close to the edge of a building fell off the side 45ft , broke almost everything you can think of. But worse then this I had a partial tear of my spinal cord, broken bones heal, spinal cords do not.

    I lost the use or function of my bowel, which means my body will now empty my bowels without any control, my bladder is controlled by me using a catheter into my bladder three or four times a day, if I do not then I will fill up until it just leaks out. The worse is my bowels which will leak.

    Now then my legs I’ve lost 45% of the muscles and it’s getting worse, reason the nerves do not work so trying to keep up the use of my legs is hard.

    OK what do they call my disability, well it’s called Paraplegia.

    The worse part of this is pain every single day i have pain all day all week all year, my temper is on edge, so they decided to give me morphine, this was to allow me to take the medication when I’m in pain, to stop me getting addicted they placed the morphine into a pump and placed it under my skin, does it work, it helps it takes the edge of the pain.

    So why not get a job, well the simple answer of course who the hell wants to employ me, it’s not whether I want to work because I’d love to, but who is going to employ me.

    Labour the Tories Freud and all the rest miss this point you can place me onto JSA cut my benefits, the fact is unless a company wants to employ me, then sadly I’ve had it… I have spent the last five years on the New deal, Pathways to work, Workfare, I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, once I get to the interview and people smell the nappy i wear, boy I’m gone faster then lightening

  • Alan

    The original article claims that David Freud isb an “expert” on welfare. In fact this investment banker is no such thing. In an article in Daily telegraph in February 2009 he said truthfully that when he started his “review” he knew “nothing about welfare”. He still didn’t in Feb 2009, claiming that claimants were “put on Incapacity Benefit by their GP”. This is not, and never was the case. Each claimant was assessed by an independent doctor working for the DWP and latterly ATOS.

  • Victor Southern

    Verity – there you go again. Is it really so dull in Mexico that you have to sharpen your stiletto here?

  • General Zod

    “Verity” is presumably an ironic choice of name.


    Susan Hill at 12.58, my bet would be that Field does not accept, probably at all, but certainly not until later this week when he sees if there is any objection to Bercow as Speaker.

    Apparently this is quite possible such is the ordinary Tory MPs’ loathing of the Labour little shit. Trouble is Campbell is also very likely to stand as well, splitting the anti-Bercow vote and letting him back in, given that Labour will be unofficially whipped to vote solidly for him.

  • Verity

    General Zod – what a strange, authoritarian nom de guerre you have chosen! I’m guessing you have never been in the military. Am I right?

    That you have awarded yourself the title “General” would seem to point to a rather authoritarian nature and a longing for importance and status that you were otherwise unable to acquire. You seem to be unable to tolerate dissent …

    Calm down, you silly man. It’s only a blog.

  • Noa

    All credit to Mr Field for not accepting a ‘Poverty Tzar’ role in the Coalition.

    The language of nu-lab is insidious and remains lodged like an arrow in the pody politic. Talk of ‘reducing poverty’is fatuous. No one in the UK is homeless or hungary. Deprivation is not material. The definition of poverty is an ever moving scale used to justify the unlimited extraction of tax and its supporting bureaucracy. The ultimate reason for doing so is to prevent widespread disorder and crime by the unemployed.
    It’s really nothing more than blackmail, paid to support Labours voters. It can be reduced directly, by cutting benefits and indirectly, by cutting claiments. As Denis Cooper rightly notes it can be structured as a finite loan and be available only to UK citizens who have made substantive tax contributions.
    Similarly with the NHS, which should be free only to UK citizens.

  • PayDirt

    Billy, thanks for that, also:

    from Johann Hari: ‘Field complained to Blair that “you have chained me to a maniac”. Harman said she couldn’t work with somebody who accused her of being a liar. Field replied that he “couldn’t work with somebody who is a fucking liar.” This appalling state of affairs led to a policy deadlock that prevented the government from making any progress on its pledge to reform the welfare state. This section alone, telling the whole sordid story with a shaming clarity that no other journalist has achieved, makes the book worth buying.’
    Nov2000, reviewing a book by Andrew Rawnsley.

  • chevron

    I have to agree with the thrust of anecdote’s such as Susan’s above: it is quite wrong that people – indeed whole demographics – should play the system (or be able to play the system) for personal gain. There really is a pervasive entitlement culture, even amongst those who would rather work than claim.

    That being said, I too currently find myself unemployed, and have been that way for nigh on six months, despite a substantial collection of high-level qualifications and broad experience (both of which, I discover, are an actual barrier to finding low-skilled work, being about the only thing available around here these days). So I would like to make a couple of points with reference to my personal situation:

    a) Taking a hatchet to welfare claimants is all very well, but only if sufficient employment vacancies exist. A couple of months ago, the police here had ten vacancies for support staff in the local town. The recruitment lines were supposed to be open for two weeks, but closed in two days after receiving over 1000 applications. Work is nice, if you can get it.

    b) It is fine to pursue those who abuse the system, but this must be done without pressurising legitimate claimants. I lost a fortnight of JSA due to missing an appointment. Fair enough, you might think. Except I live 15 miles from the office without own or public transport, and rely on a third-party who, that day, was taken ill. Their response (and the response of a faceless ‘decision-maker’): “To remain fair, we must treat everyone equally”. So not according to circumstance then? Any ill-considered tightening of rules can only increase this “fairness”. We need a return to common-sense, before yet more rules.

  • denis cooper

    It’s true; Hutton has a knack for being wrong.

  • General Zod

    We know you hate him, Verity. You post several times each day to tell us so.

    He is the Prime Minister now. You are still a bitter, negative person who has nothing constructive to add to any discussion.

  • denis cooper

    Why not consider treating more welfare payments as repayable loans, rather than non-repayable grants?

    Like this: you’ve had children knowing full well that you can’t afford to support them, and we won’t let them suffer because of your irresponsibility; but once they’re grown up we’ll expect you to repay all of this help that we’re giving you now for their sake, with interest; and if that means that you’ll get no state pension or other age related benefits and minimal heath care when you’re old, that’s the way it’ll be.

    Shouldn’t be impossible to keep a personal social security account with a running total, making it possible to assess whether somebody’s been a net contributor or a net recipient over their adult life so far, and decide whether they should be treated as being in social credit or in social debit.

    Harsh? Well, having no social security system at all would be far harsher.

  • billy

    Didn’t I read that FF was dropped because HH couldn’t work with a man who thought her a liar and FF retorting that he couldn’t work with a liar?
    Maybe I dreamt it.

  • Verity

    God I hate the greedy, sly, self-serving David Cameron. The last time this individual spoke the truth was when he declared himself the heir to Blair … although the reality is, Blair had a quicker wit and a more flairy, thespian presence. And his face had some definition. It didn’t look like a bowl of Jello. And his mouth didn’t look like a hen’s arse.

    BTW, I’m sick to death of seeing Cameron in his shirt sleeves. What physical labour is he involved in that he constantly has to discard his jacket … I suppose he has the naive belief that it will send a subliminal message that he’s working really, really hard. If it’s a hot day, don’t they have air-conditioning, or fans, in Downing Street?

    Shut up, Dave. And put your jacket on, you creep.

  • Verity

    Vulture: “… why doesn’t Dave appoint Polly Toynbee as his social policy Tsarina while he’s about it?”

    Because he’s waiting for a reply from that Alihabihai Jones woman. If she says no, he’ll offer the gig to Toynbee. (I googled that Ahihabai woman and also went to The Grauniad site to get the correct spelling of her name, and could not find her. Anyway, I am confident that you know who I mean.)

  • Irene

    If they have gone for Hutton then the next one should be Blanchflower!!

  • Osred

    ….and another (welfare thing). Barman in my local Wetherspoons (decent guy doing 2 jobs while he tries to get one he really likes) claims the following welfare lunacy is true. If you are registered as an alcoholic (or other addiction), you get an improved rate of benefit to the tune of £45 a week. He doesnt know what the cash is intended for but it enables a merry band to queue at the bar and line their drinks up just before the 9.00 a.m when the till allows beer to be sold.

  • 2trueblue

    A good move, it will make government more inclusive, which is no bad thing. Why Will Hutton? Beggars belief.
    Polly, you have got to be joking? Relative poverty????


    Overheard this morning. Young woman I know, aged 20. Boyfriend, aged 20. Neither has ever worked. 2 children under 2. Talking in street to friends. ‘We’re gonna have another then we get 3 bedrooms.’

  • Tim Carpenter LPUK

    Sorting out Welfare is going to be very very difficult thanks to the decades of “work” by the Fabians.

    It needs to involve taxation and planning (i.e. housing) before it can be resolved. Even those proposing Citizens Basic Income or variants tend to shy away from truly grasping the issue of housing.

    If FF, IDS & Co do not propose to flatly tell people that once they are on benefits, additional family members (relatives, kids) will NOT increase their benefits (money, housing) then it is unlikely to fully succeed.

    Ealing is building more 4 bed homes to cater for “the demand”. Madness – people on benefits live better than those who are paying for it all. Nobody MUST have umpteen kids, and if you chose to have them, you are responsible. Intentional overcrowding should not be pandered to.

    “What about the chiiiiildren?” – ask the parents, NOT the State.


    Frank Field is an excellent appointment though he should have been made Speaker. But he is a man of total honesty and probity and has spent his entire Parliamentary life working for the genuinely poor and disadvantaged not for the scroungers.
    The appointment of Will Hutton defies belief.

  • PayDirt

    I never understood why Frank Field got dumped out to the Labour Govt, but then I’m not that knowledgable about the inner workings of the previous Labour lot.

  • General Zod

    I have to say that I had never expected to see Hutton involved with a Tory government. The man is an idiot, obsessed with ideas that have been proven time and time again to be wrong.

    He will waffle on about stakeholders until finally Dave sacks him.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Vulture, this is the plan. Get all the critics on board. It doesn’t matter what they think, they can’t carp. The government is going to be by clique anyway. Welcome to the new politics. Democracy is no longer needed, having finally produced the right choice. Yay.

  • Victor Southern

    Frank Field is an example of a pragmatic politician as opposed to an ideologue. He seldom strays far from commonsense, an under-rated attribute these days.

  • Vulture

    One appointment you (understandably) leave out from your paen of praise to the admirable and fearless Frank, Peter : that of Will Hutton, the left-wing ‘economist’ and journalist who will chair Dave’s new Pay Commission.

    This is akin to making Lavrenti Beria chairman of the Gulag Orphans’ Relief Fund.

    Hutton has been on the wrong side of ever economic argument for the last thirty years and was the worst editor in the Observer’s long and woeful history.

    In his misplaced attempt to appease the Left, why doesn’t Dave appoint Polly Toynbee as his social policy Tsarina while he’s about it?

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