In the quest to simplify the morass of tax credits and welfare benefits, the government is to trial a novel cashless scheme, first pioneered in the 1940s.
Today a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP, colloquially pronounced 'dope') proudly announced "The proposal is to introduce books with stamps that can be exchanged for foodstuffs, fuel, clothing and household domestic products at approved outlets such as certain supermarket chains and Poundland." He suavely denied that these are 'ration books', in that everything needed was readily available, except the cash to pay for it.
In a rare demonstration of 'joined up thinking', it has been decided that the value that is apportioned to the stamps (or 'Ouchers' as they have been dubbed) will not simply be a matter of monetary value. Foodstuffs that the NHS has designated as bad for you, or just tasting indecently nice while not contributing commensurate nutritional value, will have a higher stamp value. Ditto 'luxury' items such as ciggies, decent alcohol, lottery tickets and tampons.
The same system is proposed for housing benefit or 'Tramp stamps' as they are now known, where it will cost more stamps to live in certain postcodes. The government has strenously denied that this is to discourage 'opportunist' landlords from letting to DSS in 'sensitive' property areas (such as where the MPs live).
In order to minimise any social stigma, it has been decided that the stamps will be colour-coded to indicate which welfare group claimants fall into. Thus those on disabilities allowance will have cheery pink tickets. Those newly unemployed or released from prison or other institutions such as the armed forces will have purple stamps and the 'long-term unemployed for no discernable reason', will have yellow stamps. People with jobs who receive tax credits will have blue stamps, to incentivise the other groups to aspire to their status. Or hate them. One or the other.
In a rare show of unity, MPs on all sides of the House are lauded the new scheme today. Nick Clegg jublilantly 'vouched' for the proposals, Ed Milliband offered the Opposition 'stamp of approval' and Ed Balls quipped that the new policy 'would stick' prompting the PM to blushingly declare "Philately will get you nowhere".