Cameron: Welfare Reforms 'Put Fairness Back'

The Prime Minister has insisted that welfare reforms are "putting fairness back" into Britain as a poll suggests six out of 10 people think state handouts are too generous.

David Cameron has given a staunch defence of the controversial benefit shake-up in an article for The Sun newspaper.

As the welfare state overhaul continues to fuel an increasingly bitter political row, the Prime Minister said Government is on the side of "each and every hardworking person in our country".

He suggested it was "crazy" that claimants could have a bigger income on benefits than work and argued it is "fair that we all play by the same rules".

Mr Cameron pledged to "always help" the most vulnerable but insisted "those who can, should" as he warned that the system was causing "resentment" across the country.

He wrote: "We are putting fairness back at the heart of Britain. We are building a country for those who work hard and want to get on. And we are saying to each and every hardworking person in our country: we are on your side.

"This is a Government for hardworking people: and that's the way it will stay."

Over the last week widespread welfare and tax changes have come into force including a below inflation 1% cap on working-age benefits and tax credit rises for three years.

Around 660,000 social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room will lose an average £14 a week in what critics have dubbed a "bedroom tax" and trials are due to begin in four London boroughs of a £500-a-week cap on household benefits.

An opinion poll for The Sun found six out of 10 voters believe benefits are too generous and 79% back the Government's plan to cap a family's benefit at £26,000 a year.

Mr Cameron said the system had "lost its way" and had become a "lifestyle choice for some".

He wrote in The Sun: "It was designed to bring us together, but is causing resentment. I think the British people are about the most fair and generous people on the planet - but no-one wants to work hard every day and see their hard-earned taxes being used to fund things they themselves cannot afford or keep generations dependent on welfare.

"So this month we are making some big changes. They are changes that have a simple principle at their heart: we are restoring the fairness that should lie at the very heart of our tax and welfare systems."

Speaking on Sky's Murnaghan programme former Labour Chief Whip and MP for Newcastle East Nick Brown, said: "It is morally wrong to demonise the poor.

"Within my constituency I have 7,500 people on Job Seekers Allowance - out of work, looking for work - and the number of job vacancies in the region is 10,000. There is a grotesque mismatch between those seeking work and the number of jobs available.

"The correct thing to thing to do is to intervene with the private sector to create jobs and to help them into obtaining them."

Meanwhile there are suggestions that Labour is planning a significant shift in its approach to welfare.

Detailed work is under way on possible policy proposals that would mean benefit payments to those out of work or on low incomes would vary according to their past contributions, according to The Observer.

It quotes a Labour party source saying: "The problem at the moment is that you have a person aged 50 who has worked all his life and then becomes unemployed getting much the same as the person next door who has never worked. It is about linking what you take out to what you have put in."

In an article for the newspaper shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "There are lots of people right now who feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back.

"That should change."

Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander said Labour's plans on welfare showed they were "out of touch".

He told Murnaghan on Sky News: "I think it is extraordinary today that the Labour party has come forward with its proposals to increase the cost of the welfare system.

"From the shadow work and pensions secretary, who was the person who left a note for my predecessor saying there is no money left, to now come forward with ideas to spend even more money on the welfare system just shows how out of touch with reality the Labour party are."

However, Mr Alexander said that he didn't think it was "helpful" to link the case of Mick Philpott, who was last week jailed for killing his children in a house fire, to the problems with the welfare state.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, linked the Philpotts case to the benefits reform in the days after the trial ended, in a move supported by Mr Cameron.