» Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Welfare Reform

Asked why the Prime Minister hadn’t been present for Alan Johnson’s statement on welfare reform given that it was such a high priority for him, the PMOS said that journalists could take it that the Prime Minister had been heavily involved in this, as he had been with the other five year plans. That was why he had gone to Asda with Alan Johnson, because they had recruited people who had been on incapacity benefit and were an example to other employers. The Prime Minister had also made a speech on this subject yesterday. That showed his commitment to the issue. However it was not always possible to coordinate the Prime Minister’s diary with the House of Commons statement diary.

Put to him that there hadn’t been 80% employment since World War 2 and was a massive undertaking, the PMOS said that yes it was an ambitious target. However we had 2 million more people in work since 1997, an employment rate of 75% at the moment and we had more people in work than other G8 countries. It was worth mentioning that our unemployment rate was substantially lower than in France and Germany. That indicated that Government policies were having a positive impact on the economy. Asked if those figures included the 2.75 million on incapacity benefit and the 7 million who had dropped out of employment all together, the PMOS said that in terms of the number of incapacity benefit he would simply emphasise that the 2 million of those were there at 1997. In terms of getting people back to work, that was precisely the aim of the changes that had been announced on incapacity benefit. He would point to the Pathways to Work pilot schemes we had operated which showed the benefit of the kind of approach we were taking.

Asked about the absence of the "Citizens Pension" proposals from Alan Johnson’s speech, the PMOS said that in terms of pensions there was the Adair Commission report to be produced. Whilst Alan Johnson could set out the principles we had still had to wait for the Adair Commission report which would have a major impact on the detail of the proposals.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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