Political parties yesterday attacked the Government for producing a 'poorly grounded' welfare cuts proposal behind closed doors. By pegging welfare payments to wages of the lowest income group, legislators said officials were 'playing the poor against the poor'. The Liberal Party's Ho Sai-chu said there was a problem in linking welfare payments with market wages. In times of economic downturn, there were people willing to accept salaries below reasonable levels, or who declined to receive welfare payments even though eligible, he said. The Democratic Party said it did not rule out the need for welfare cuts, but it believed the Government's proposal had to be well-grounded. 'You cut the standard rate by 10 per cent, but the prices of such basic items as oil, rice, electricity or water bills and so on have not come down by 10 per cent. In effect, recipients will suffer from a poorer standard of living,' Fred Li Wah-ming said. After a briefing by officials on the plan at a Legco panel meeting, he said: 'You are just playing the poor against the poor.' Independent Eric Li Ka-cheung said the Government owed the public an explanation. 'If the existing payments are just enough to meet subsistence needs, how can you still have room for such significant cuts? You have to support it with data.' Lee Cheuk-yan of The Frontier said the move was 'illogical' and feared it would have an impact on families and the job market. 'You are using families in the lower income bracket as a comparison. You are forcing people to take lower pay and this will just affect the whole market,' he said. Cyd Ho Sau-lan, also from The Frontier, said many low-income families did not have enough to live on. The Government was just throwing them back into society to fend for themselves. Describing the proposal as a failure, Chan Yuen-han of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, said core problems were not addressed. 'The Government thinks only of cutting spending, but it has not answered why so many people apply for social payments? How can you help them to find work?' Legislators feared the proposal for jobless people receiving welfare to carry out community work would serve more as a punishment than a help. Democrat Law Chi-kwong asked: 'The jobless are mostly aged above 40 and have few skills and little education - how would cleaning up beaches or parks help them to find work?' Executive Council member Tam Yiu-chung said while the proposal was intended for discussion, some recommendations might not have been considered thoroughly.