Ed Miliband and David Cameron clashed over the Work Programme, jobs and the economy at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
Here is a transcript of the full exchange:
EM: “When the Work programme was launched in June 2011, the Prime Minister described it as “the biggest and boldest programme since the great depression”. Eighteen months on, can he update the House on how it is going?”
DC: “Yes, I can update the House. Over 800,000 people have taken part in the Work programme, over half of whom came off benefits. Over 200,000 people have got into work because of the Work programme.
“It is worth remembering that the Work programme is dealing with the hardest to employ cases in our country; these are adults who have been out of work for over a year and young people who have been out of work for over nine months. On that basis, yes, we need to make further progress, but it is the right programme.”
EM: “But the scheme is supposed to create sustained jobs for people, and in a whole year of the programme just two out of every 100 people got a job – that is a success rate of 2%. The government estimate – I do not know why the part-time Chancellor is chuntering – yesterday in Cabinet he was telling off the Work and Pensions Secretary for the failure of the Work programme.
“The Government estimate that without the Work programme – this is the basis on which they did the tender—five out of every 100 people would get a job. Is it an historic first to have designed a welfare-to-work programme in which someone is more likely to get a job if they are not on that programme?”
DC: “I have to say to the Leader of the Opposition that I listened very carefully to what he said, and what he said was wrong. He said that only 2% of people on this programme got a job. That is not correct. More than 800,000 people have taken part, and more than 200,000 have got into work.
“The specific figure that he referred to concerned people continuously in work for six months – but of course, he is only looking at a programme that has been going for a year, and the figure is 19,000 people. He should listen to the CBI, which said that “the Work Programme has already helped to turn around the lives of thousands of people”.
“Those are people who Labour left on the scrap heap. The right hon. Gentleman should be apologising, not attacking the Work programme.”
EM: “I think that is as close as we get to an admission that I was right and he was wrong.
“The Prime Minister boasted that his flagship policy, the Work programme, was about tackling the scourge of long-term unemployment. Will he confirm that since the Work programme was introduced in June 2011, long-term unemployment has risen by 96%?”
DC: “Let me give the right hon. Gentleman the employment numbers: a million more private sector jobs over the past two years; since the last election, 190,000 fewer people on out-of-work benefits; in the last quarter, employment up by 100,000 people and unemployment down by 49,000. While we are at it, let us remember Labour’s poisonous legacy: youth unemployment up by 40%; unemployment among women up by 24%; and 5 million people on out-of-work benefits.
“That is the legacy we are dealing with, and we are getting the country back to work.”
EM: “I wish for once that the Prime Minister would just answer the question. I asked him a very simple question about whether long-term unemployment has gone up by 96% since the Work programme was introduced, and the answer is yes. While he is talking about Labour’s programmes, let us talk about the future jobs fund. Last Friday, the Government issued a very interesting document. The Prime Minister spent two years rubbishing the future jobs fund but what did this document say? It said that the scheme provided “net benefit to participants, their employers and society as a whole”.
“In other words, it was a success. The Prime Minister rubbished the programme yet it helped 120,000 young people into work. His Work programme has helped only 3,000. They shout, “What does it cost?”, but we cannot afford not to have young people in work. Is the truth that the Prime Minister got rid of a Labour programme that was working, and replaced it with a Tory one that is not?”
DC: “Once again the right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong so let me give him the figures. The Government’s work experience programme sees half of the young people who take part get into work. That is the same result as for the future jobs fund, and it costs 20 times less. That is the truth: our programme is good value for taxpayers’ money and it is getting people into work. The right hon. Gentleman wasted money and left people on the dole.”
EM: “The more the Prime Minister blusters, the redder he gets and the less convincing he is. That is the reality. We know in real time what happened at yesterday’s Cabinet – they were at each other like rats in a sack. The Chancellor blames the Work and Pensions Secretary; the Work and Pensions Secretary blames the Chancellor for the lack of growth. The Prime Minister is doing what he does best and blaming everyone else for the failure. Is the reality that the Government’s failure on the Work programme is a product of their failure to get growth, and the failure of their whole economic strategy?”
DC: “The right hon. Gentleman worked in a Government where the Prime Minister and the Chancellor could not be in the same room as each other—rats in a sack does not even cover it.
“Why not have a look at what the right hon. Gentleman has achieved on welfare this week? Once again this week, Labour voted against the welfare cap. Today, the Opposition are asking us to vote on a motion in the House on welfare. Last night, the motion specifically said they wanted further reform of welfare, but today the motion mentions nothing about it. The truth is that they are against the benefit cap, against the housing benefit cap and against the Work programme. They are officially the party of something for nothing.”
EM: “I will tell the Prime Minister the reality. His welfare reform programme is failing because there is not the work, and his economic strategy is failing. That is the reality. He has a Work programme that is not working, a growth strategy that is not delivering, and a deficit that is rising. The Government are failing, the Prime Minister is failing and the British people.
“Calm down, calm down. The Prime Minister just cannot keep his cool when he knows he is losing the argument, and it is the British people who are paying the price for his failure.”
DC: “I think what we can see is a leadership that is drowning. This Government have cut corporation tax, scrapped the jobs tax, introduced enterprise zones, backed the regional growth fund, and funded 1 million apprenticeships, and we are rebuilding our economy so that we see 1 million more people in private sector work. We are putting the country back to work; Labour wrecked it.”