Work and Pensions Secretary Duncan Smith yesterday revived former Thatcher minister Tebbit’s savage ‘on your bike’ attack on the unemployed.
Duncan Smith announced plans for people on JobSeekers Allowance living in council homes to give up their home and move to areas where allegedly there are jobs.
His scheme does not guarantee they will be rehoused in a council home, just put on the waiting list at the new location.
He alleged that under Labour, ‘almost ghettos of poverty’ had appeared ‘where people are static and unable to get work because there is not work there’.
He claimed his plan ‘is not threatening people; far from it.
‘Most people I talk to on housing estates desperately want work but they are trapped. It is about trying to help them to find a way out.’
But former Labour education secretary and leadership challenger Ed Balls called the move ‘profoundly unfair’.
Referring to Tebbit’s infamous remarks, Balls said: ‘It goes further than on your bike.
‘It is on your bike and lose your home.
‘That seems to be profoundly unfair and the wrong way to deal with the unemployment problem.’
He added: ‘It is back to the 1980s. The idea that the only solution to unemployment is to cut benefits and say to people, “go and do it yourself”. We know that does not work.’
He warned that people could lose their rights to housing benefit unless they were willing to travel to find work and there were no commitments to rehouse workers should they decide to do so.
Meanwhile, the Tories are inviting trade union leaders to sit on the pension review being chaired by former Labour Work and Pensions secretary John Hutton.
Cameron’s advisers believe that widespread industrial action over public spending cuts can be averted if public sector trade union leaders are offered a deal over pensions.
Trade union leaders have warned of coordinated strikes and other protests to resist the cuts, that are predicted to cost 700,000 jobs.
They have also warned of strike action to defend public sector pensions.
But senior Tories believe that the prospect of a deal on pensions could be used to lessen union opposition to spending cuts elsewhere.
Taking their cue from Cameron’s trade union ‘envoy’, former Labour MEP Richard Balfe, senior Tories are urging that union leaders are given seats on Hutton’s review of public sector pensions.
Balfe told ‘The Daily Telegraph’ on Saturday: ‘Public-sector pensions are like lollipops for kids.
‘You decide what sort of lollipop you’re going to give, and then you work out how you are going to pay for it.
‘It’s perfectly possible to maintain public-sector pensions at their current level, if you make some fairly modest alterations to employee contributions.’
He added: ‘Public-sector pensions will clearly be a very significant issue in the wider relationship between the government and the unions. I hope they can be persuaded of that.’
He predicted that most trade union leaders would take a ‘pragmatic’ view of the spending cuts.