A tough new crackdown on benefit claimants will be at the heart of the Queen’s Speech, as the Government sets out its programme for the year ahead.
Unemployed people may be told to do a nine to five day, looking for jobs or carrying out community work such as digging gardens.
Gordon Brown is to promise a “fairer” society with more opportunities for people of all backgrounds, and local control over public services. But there will also be a focus on tougher rules to crack down on people claiming benefits when they could be working.
Ministers indicated the type of measures they plan to introduce as they welcomed a hard-hitting report commissioned by the Government.
Prof Paul Gregg, from Bristol University, said almost everyone on benefits should be ordered to look for work and face having benefits stopped for up to four weeks if they refuse to co-operate.
Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said: “The approach that virtually everyone should be doing something in return for benefits is the right one.”
The recession actually made it more important to take a hard line with benefit claimants as it might encourage them to drift away from the labour market, said Prof Gregg.
He suggested “work equal” activities, which he described as being like a school detention, under which the unemployed would undertake community service-style work or have to spend all day in an office using a computer to look for jobs.
“It would involve doing an equivalent nine-five job search, with someone looking over your shoulder to make sure you were not just on Facebook.”
Gordon Brown insisted there were “thousands of jobs” available, as he visited a private sector organisation in London which provides employment support and advice to those on incapacity benefit or income support.
He said: “We want to provide a personal service to everyone. I can assure people, having been here, that there are thousands of vacancies that can be taken up. We are determined to help people.”
Other measures planned by Ministers include a ban on cut-price drinks in pubs, clubs and shops, after they concluded the industry has failed to regulate itself. MPs including Lynda Waltho (Lab Stourbridge) will be celebrating victory in their campaign for a crackdown on lapdancing clubs, as the Government announces plans to reclassify them as “sex encounter establishments”.
This will give local councils far more freedom to refuse to grant licences and stop new clubs opening.
Some Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs are planning to use the return of Parliament for the Queen’s Speech as an opportunity to demand a debate on the arrest of Damian Green, the Conservative immigration spokesman, for his role in leaking information from the Home Office.
Speaker Michael Martin is to make a statement to MPs after he came under fire for allowing police to search Mr Green’s Commons office.