BENEFIT CUTS AND ‘WARTIME POWERS’ – in Queen’s Speech

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The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) yesterday warned that the ‘welfare reform’ plans announced in the Queen’s Speech ‘are the wrong proposals at the wrong time which will penalise some of the most disadvantaged in society’.

The plans have drawn opposition from across civil society with over 70 signatories signed up to the PCS and Compass co-ordinated campaign called ‘Welfare for all’.

Signatories, including trade unions, poverty campaigners and academics, have signed up to the statement calling for the government to re-think its plans which will see jobcentre work privatised, the abolition of Income Support and a punitive benefits regime introduced, marginalising some of the most disadvantaged in society.

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: ‘The government’s welfare reform proposals signal the break up of the welfare state as we know it, with the removal of the state safety net and the introduction of the free market, where the only motive is profit for the few and not help for the many.

‘As the recession deepens, these are the wrong proposals at the wrong time, which will lead to people being bullied into jobs that don’t exist.’

He concluded: ‘We would urge the government to think again about an approach which goes even further than Thatcher would dare in the 1980s and which stigmatises and demonises people as work shy.’

But TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber backed the government, saying that the Queen’s Speech announcements ‘nearly all hit the right note for these recessionary times.

‘They combine measures that will help beat the recession with a determination to press ahead with measures that will make the country fairer.’

On the government’s major assault on social security benefits, Barbersaid that ‘the welfare reform proposals stick out.

‘They look like a leftover from pre-recessionary times. They are based on the view that anyone can get a job if they have the right attitudes, training and advice.

‘Of course we should not tolerate those who cheat the system, but with the dole queue set to grow by more than a million, the newly redundant need help, guidance and decent benefits not to be treated as potential benefit scroungers.’

As well as abolishing income support the government announced yesterday plans to force the long term unemployed onto ‘training’ courses or face benefit cuts. Under plans drawn up for the government by Professor Paul Gregg JSA claimants could face four week benefit cuts.

The government is also driving single parents and the disabled off their existing benefits and onto the jobseekers allowance.

They will have to ‘prove’ that they are taking steps towards rejoining the labour market.

l Civil rights group Liberty warned that measures contained in the Immigration and Citizenship Bill ‘extend powers of examination’ to anyone who has ever gone out of the UK, even just for a holiday.

It condemned such a ‘draconian intrusion into our daily lives’.

Immigration and Border Agency officers will have powers to demand ID anywhere in the UK, not just ports and airports.

NO2ID national coordinator said: ‘We have not had any law like this outside of wartime.’