Opposition prepares policy shift on welfare payments

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Labour’s deputy leader has admitted it was understandable that workers felt “resentful” about benefits claimants that do not want a job as the party attempted to reposition itself on welfare.

Harriet Harman said it was “not surprising” that people were concerned about the system but claimed the Government’s failure to install a proper work programme was letting some people “off the hook”.

The party is working on policy proposals that would mean benefit payments to those out of work or on low incomes would vary according to their past contributions.

Ms Harman told BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show: “The difficulty is for people who are in work, seeing their standard of living pressurised, understandably, they feel very resentful for people who are not working. For people who are looking for a job and can’t find a work it’s deeply frustrating and then of course the small minority who don’t want to work – well they are let off the hook by the fact there isn’t a proper work programme.”

Ms Harman said the party was working up three principles on welfare ahead of the general election.

She added: “One, that work should pay, secondly, there should be obligation to take work and thirdly that there should be support through a contributory principle for people putting into the system as well as taking out.”

It comes after days of bitter clashes as a raft of major coalition tax and welfare reforms took effect, including a below inflation one per cent cap on working-age benefits and tax credit rises for three years and a ‘bedroom tax’ on housing tenants with a spare room.

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the welfare shake-up claiming it was “putting
fairness back at the heart of