Benefits claimants should be banned from spending their state handouts on cigarettes and booze, a Tory MP has controversially claimed.
Alec Shelbrooke told the Commons those receiving payments should be given a welfare card which would work like a chip and pin debit card. But crucially it would not work if claimants tried to use it buy alcohol and cigarettes, he said.
Mr Shelbrooke, the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said the plan would end the “damaging perception” that those who claimed benefits were scroungers, sponging off the state.
Proposing his Welfare Cash Card Bill in the Commons, Mr Shelbrooke said the changes would “encourage responsible spending” among claimants, adding it would ensure taxpayers’ money was spent “wisely” and “for the purpose for which it was intended”.
He said: “This would alter the spending habits of a minority, who prefer to take advantage of the system, getting something for nothing.
“The something for nothing culture encouraged by the previous Labour government created a two-tier benefits system where striving low-paid workers have been penalised for the idleness of the shirkers.
“This Bill works alongside the Government’s welfare reforms to support those hard-working families who strive to be self-supporting by ending the something-for-nothing stigma of the welfare system.
“Introducing a welfare cash card on which benefits will be paid, claimants will only be able to make priority payments such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing. The purchase of luxury goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling will be prohibited.
“When hard-working families up and down the country are forced to cut back on such non-essential, desirable, or neg items as I have called them, it is right that taxpayer benefits be only used for essential purposes.”