Sir, Simon Szreter (“Elizabethans knew how to boost our productivity”, Thunderer, Jul 12) tells us that we should bring back the principles of the Elizabethan Poor Law. Those principles were that the impotent poor — the disabled — should and would be taken care of through that system of progressive taxation upon land. The able-bodied poor, unable to work through some economic happenstance, would also be cared for, but at the cost of their working on some task while they were — say, those on jobseeker’s allowance having to sweep the streets or stack shelves. The idle poor were sent to the House of Correction, or possibly prison. My suspicion is that there would be a lot of votes today in a system that jailed the workshy. I think Szreter very brave, in that Yes Minister sense, for proposing it.
Senior fellow Adam Smith Institute, London SW1