WORK and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has criticised graduates who consider themselves “too good” to stack supermarket shelves as he vowed not to back down after flagship back-to-work schemes were ruled unlawful.
The secretary of state used an appearance on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to rebuke university geology graduate Cait Reilly, 24, who mounted a successful legal challenge after being told to work for free at a Poundland discount store or face losing benefits.
Mr Duncan Smith warned against thinking geology was more important than work in a supermarket.
He said: “I understand she said she wasn’t paid. She was paid jobseeker’s allowance, by the taxpayer, to do this.
“I’m sorry, but there is a group of people out there who think they’re too good for this kind of stuff.
“Let me remind you that [former Tesco chief executive] Terry Leahy started his life stacking shelves.
“The next time somebody goes in – those smart people who say there’s something wrong with this – they go into their supermarket, ask themselves this simple question, when they can’t find the food they want on the shelves, who is more important – them, the geologist, or the person who stacked the shelves?”
The Conservative cabinet minister has tabled emergency regulations to deal with the Court of Appeal ruling that the rules of the work experience scheme were unclear.
Lord Justice Pill, Lady Justice Black and Sir Stanley Burnton unanimously agreed the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough information, especially about the sanctions for refusing jobs under the schemes.
Mr Duncan Smith dismissed the court ruling as “rubbish” and pledged to press ahead with the controversial welfare reforms.
He also defended the coalition’s bedroom tax, insisting it was not about “punishing” benefit claimants.
He said that the measure, which will mean social housing tenants with spare bedrooms must move to a smaller home or lose up to 25 per cent of housing benefit, was urgently needed to reduce waiting lists for properties.
The Conservative-led coalition government claimed the bedroom tax will cut the housing benefit bill by more than £500 million a year and reduce the waiting list for council and social housing.
However, it has now been reported that pensioners with spare rooms will be hit by reductions in housing benefit under the government shake-up.
The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted that pensioners living with a younger partner of working age will be liable for the bedroom tax.
Mr Duncan Smith insisted that pensioners would not “suffer” from the tax that will see up to 660,000 people in social housing forced to pay an average £14 extra per week to stay in their homes.
Education must have work focus, Scots Tory leader says
YOUNG people should be offered the choice of an academic or vocational career from as young as 14, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson will argue in a flagship speech.
Ms Davidson will say too many young people are choosing unsuitable academic courses or vocational courses where jobs are limited as she delivers an address on the future direction of the party.
She wants Scotland to follow the guidance of entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, who recently called for an alignment between the education system and the jobs market.
Ms Davidson will also outline her vision for secondary education in a speech at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library today, in the latest in a series of policy initiatives.
She is expected to say: “At last year’s Business in Parliament conference, Sir Tom Hunter gave a unique and thoughtful speech. He warned of the need to align our education system more closely with our employment markets: ‘If we need welders, let’s train welders, and let vocational education flourish.’
“He went on to suggest rewarding schools, universities and further educational colleges not on their success rate on exams but on the positive destinations of their pupils, and that we incentivise the best teachers to teach in our toughest schools.
“To some, Sir Tom’s views may seem radical. To me they make good common sense.”