Asked if she would reverse changes to benefits sanctions, Ms Reeves said: “They have been in power now for 13 years. If it’s the case that people can play the system and not look for work whilst claiming taxpayers’ money, that’s on them, what have they been doing for 13 years?

“For me, it’s about tackling the root cause of the problem. There are 7.8 million people on hospital waiting lists and there are 2.6 million people who are off work sick. Those two things are linked, we have got to get our NHS functioning properly, because that’s the way to get our economy working properly.”

Asked repeatedly if people do play the system, she added: “It’s my personal belief that people are desperate to improve the lives of them and their families, that there are too many people who come to see me at my surgeries who are struggling to put food on the table, are struggling to pay their rents, and I want to help them to get work, and that starts by fixing our National Health Service.”

Ms Reeves also said that Labour would raise benefits in line with September inflation figures if elected. 

“The election is likely to come in a year’s time and the Government will have already implemented that, but in government I will use the inflation rate that is traditional, the September inflation, to uprate benefits,” she said. 

“If you pick and choose from year to year which inflation number is the cheapest thing to do, then what you see is the gradual erosion of people’s incomes.”

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