Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared in his "first big interview" of 2024 today (January 7) on BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

It is set to be a big year for Mr Sunak and his the Conservative Party in what will be an election year.

Mr Sunak did not mention when the election would be in 2024 while on the BBC programme today, but has previously mentioned it would take place in the second half of the year.

Speaking to Mrs Kuenssberg, Mr Sunak discussed everything from immigration and Rwanda to NHS waiting lists and the Post Office scandal.

Rishi Sunak talks crackdown on numbers eligible for benefits in UK

But it was Mr Sunak's comments about the welfare system and the crackdown on who may receive benefits in the future that raised eyebrows.

The Prime Minister said reforms to the welfare system were required to ensure “everyone who can work, does work”.

It comes after recent comments he wanted to “keep cutting taxes” but that to do so it “requires difficult decisions to control welfare”.

The Bolton News: See what Rishi Sunak had to say about cutting back on the number of people eligible for benefits.See what Rishi Sunak had to say about cutting back on the number of people eligible for benefits. (Image: Jeff Overs/BBC/PA Wire)

Asked on BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg what welfare payments he would cut back on, the Prime Minister said: “When it comes to welfare, what we've seen over the past couple of years is a very significant rise in the number of people who are being deemed unfit for work and that is something that is concerning to me.

"I feel very strongly about the importance of hard work and rewarding hard work, which is why we are cutting taxes this weekend very significantly. 

"Now in the last decade that system hasn't been reformed at all and you've see the number of people that have been signed off has tripled.

"Do I think out country is three times sicker than it was a decade ago, the answer is no. 

"The system is not working as it was designed to work and now we are bringing forward reforms that will mean that we look at the eligibility for who is signed off sick, that won't affect all those on existing benefits, it will come in over time on people who are newly presenting to the welfare system and that is something that is the right thing. It's about fairness. 

"It's about making sure everyone that can work, does work and for everyone who is working hard, we reward that hard work with tax cuts."

These comments come just a day after the Government cut the main rate of national insurance by two percentage points, from 12% to 10%.

But Mr Sunak's comments, and his interview in general, didn't seem to sit well with some of the panellists on BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

Former government advisor Baroness Casey labelled his interview "hollow" and said the Prime Minister was running into a general election "selling nonsense". 


Baroness Casey said: "They always crackdown on welfare. If they were going to crackdown on welfare, why haven't they done it by now? And as far as I can see it isn't working."

She added: "It all rings hollow, and what I wanted was some acceptance that actually Britain is, we're pretty low actually and a lot of people in Britain will not see these tax cuts and the idea that all these people are benefit scroungers when most of them are working, the vast majority of people on benefits are working.

"I'm not the happiest person to start the show I'm afraid."