A former Labour minister in the Department of Work and Pensions has cautioned against drawing links between unpaid Diamond Jubilee stewards forced to sleep rough at the weekend and the government's flagship Work Programme.

Stephen Timms, whose ministerial career in Labour governments included stints at DWP and the Treasury, said that while he was a fierce critic of the Work Programme in general, he didn't think the incident was a fair reflection on what the coalition was trying to achieve.

"There are many, many problems with the work programme, but I don't think this incident last weekend tells us very much about what's happening with the work programme," he told us.

Timms said while there were serious questions surrounding the practices of both Close Protection UK and the charity which supplied the work experience staff, the "over-riding principle" of allowing welfare to work providers a high degree of autonomy was sensible.

Close Protection UK was supplied the unpaid workers by a charity, Tomorrow's People, which has been running since 1984. The charity has launched an internal investigation into how their volunteers were made to sleep under London Bridge and denied access to toilet facilities during a long shift on Sunday.

"Tomorrow's People will only get payment if these young people get jobs in the Olympics or at some later stage in the year. I think that's a reasonably sensible way of doing things," he told The Huffington Post on Wednesday.

Timms dismissed suggestions of a causal link between the Work Programme and the unfair treatment of the volunteers at the weekend, saying the questions were for Tomorrow's People to answer. "How much was this company paid, who were the people making the promises, and how were they vetted?" Timms wondered.

But when asked about whether the incident showed flaws in the so-called "black-box" approach to the Work Programme - where job providers have a large amount of discretion in how they get people into work - Timms said: "I don't actually see that it tells us anything about that."

His comments appear to run partially contrary to claims made by Lord Prescott on Monday morning, who called for an investigation into whether the Work Programme was essentially the government exploiting "cheap labour."

However Timms told us he agreed that Prescott was correct to highlight concerns that unpaid volunteers would lack the training which would bring them into line with industry standards.

And while Timms told HuffPost: "The principle that providers on the Work Programme should be paid if they get people into jobs is quite a sound one," he suggested the government's flagship workfare project was at risk of failing later this year because the projections for it had been drawn up when the labour market was much healthier.

"All those were based on a labour market that was much better than the current one. The government says it doesn't matter if people go bust because they won't get paid. The problem is that's not helping unemployed people," Timms told us.

Last week the Employment Minister Chris Grayling tried to paint a positive gloss on the number of people who'd found a job through the Work Programme, amid concerns that the take-up rate was levelling off. Grayling warned Work Programme providers they would be replaced if they didn't pull their socks up, and suggested that some would end up going bust because they weren't delivering what the government wanted.

"The Work Programme was never piloted, they just introduced it nationwide," Timms said. "Some of the problems we'll see later in the year are problems that could've been ironed out if they'd been trialled.

"They were in a rush, they were naive, they didn't understand how to change things, frankly, in government," he added.

Timms also warned that problems at the DWP were stacking up, telling Huffpost that the universal credit was generating a "humungous" IT headache for ministers. But he said that while the government still had wriggle-room for a partial U-turn on universal credit, abandoning the Work Programme was physcially impossible, if not politically.

"With universal credit they could half implement it, so they've just enough to claim they have introduced it on-time, but on the Work Programme they've got nowhere to go. They scrapped everything that existed beforehand, and they are lumbered with the problems that are going to ensue," he predicted.

See also: The best pics from the Diamond Jubilee

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  • (L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Price Harry wave to the crowds from Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee carriage procession after the service of thanksgiving at St.Paul's Cathedral on the Mall on June 5, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of wellwishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. (Photo credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team fly in formation over Buckingham Palace as The Royal family stand on the balcony on June 5, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of wellwishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. (Photo credit: Peter Macdiarmid - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

  • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the service of thanksgiving at St.Paul's Cathedral on June 5, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of wellwishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. (Photo credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • (L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Price Harry wave to the crowds from Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee carriage procession after the service of thanksgiving at St.Paul's Cathedral on the Mall on June 5, 2012 in London, England. For only the second time in its history the UK celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of a monarch. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrates the 60th anniversary of her ascension to the throne. Thousands of wellwishers from around the world have flocked to London to witness the spectacle of the weekend's celebrations. (Photo credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • British police lead flag waving crowds lining the monarch's route from the Houses of Parliament to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations with a thanksgiving service and ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALLJOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Royal Air force Red Arrow display team fly pass Buckingham Palace in London where Britain Queen Elizabeth II watches from the palace balcony as part of a four-day Diamond Jubilee celebration to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II accession to the throne, Tuesday, June 5, 2012. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Sang Tan)

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels through Trafalgar Square, London with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on route to Buckingham Palace during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall in London.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage to Buckingham Palace with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales after a lunch at Westminster Hall as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • The Duchess of Cambridge arrives for a lunch at Westminster Hall in London with 700 guests on the final day of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travel in a carriage to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, London.

  • Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge travel in a carriage to Buckingham Palace along The Mall, London.

  • The Duchess of Cambridge arrives for a lunch at Westminster Hall in London with 700 guests on the final day of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral, London.

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave Westminster Hall after a Diamond Jubilee Luncheon given for The Queen by The Livery Companies of The City of London.

  • Members of the public gather along Whitehall to try and get a glimpse of the Queen on her way back to Buckingham Palace, London as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

  • Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu attend a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

  • Princess Beatrice attends a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves next to the Dean of St. Paul's David Ison as she leaves St Paul's Cathedral after the National Service of Thanksgiving in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations and festivities will conclude with a ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II waves as she leaves St Paul's Cathedral after the National Service of Thanksgiving in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations and festivities will conclude with a ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II walks down the staris next to the Dean of St. Paul's David Ison as she leaves St Paul's Cathedral after the National Service of Thanksgiving in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations and festivities will conclude with a ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (Top C) and members of the Royal Family leave St Paul's Cathedral in London, following a service of thanksgiving on June 5, 2012, during the Queen's diamond jubilee. Queen Elizabeth II attended the final day of celebrations for her diamond jubilee Tuesday, but the pomp and splendour were marred by the absence of her husband Prince Philip after he was hospitalised. (Photo credit: JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Overall inside view taken as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (bottom) arrives at St Paul's Cathedral for National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations and festivities will conclude with a ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (front R) and his wife Samantha Cameron (front L) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (R) and his wife Miriam Gonzales leave St Paul's Cathedral after a National Service of Thanksgiving to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations and festivities will conclude with a ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Diamond Jubilee celebrations

    Queen Elizabeth II holds a bouquet of flowers as she returns to Buckingham Palace after attending a National Service of Thanksgiving and a Lunch in honour of her Diamond Jubilee.

  • Diamond Jubilee celebrations

    Queen Elizabeth II, followed by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, leave Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, London, following the Diamond Jubilee Lunch.

  • Diamond Jubilee celebrations

    Queen Elizabeth II, followed by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, leave Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, London, following the Diamond Jubilee Lunch.

  • Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attends a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

  • Princess Beatrice (left) and Princess Eugenie leave following a service of thanksgiving, at Saint Paul's Cathedral, in central London. (Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

  • Zara Phillips leaves following a service of thanksgiving, at Saint Paul's Cathedral, in central London. (Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA )

  • Prime Minister David Cameron reads during the service of thanksgiving for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, at St Paul's Cathedral, London. (Photo credit should read: Tim Ireland/PA Wire)

  • Crowds watch as the royal motorcade passes along Parliament Street, in London. (Photo credit should read: Matthew Lloyd/PA Wire)

  • A service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II takes place at St Paul's Cathedral, London. (Photo credit: Murray Sanders/Daily Mail/PA Wire)

  • Prime Minister David Cameron and wife Samantha Cameron attend a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral, London. (Photo credit: Murray Sanders/Daily Mail/PA Wire)

  • (left - right) Prime Minister David Cameron, chats with his wife Samantha Cameron, alongside Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez and Foreign Secretary, William Hague and his wife Ffion Hague, as they attend a National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral in central London, as part of four days of celebrations to mark the Diamond Jubilee. (Photo credit: Joel Ryan/PA Wire)

  • Labour leader Ed Miliband attends a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral, London. (Photo credit should read: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire)

  • Princess Eugenie attends a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

  • Sophie, Countess of Wessex attends a reception at Guildhall in central London for Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

  • The Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince Harry, arrive at Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, London, for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Lunch. (Photo credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

  • Queen Elizabeth II, followed by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Cambridge, arrives at Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, London, for the Diamond Jubilee Lunch. (Photo credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

  • Queen Elizabeth II, at Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster, London, during her Diamond Jubilee Lunch. (Photo credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

  • Prime Minister David Cameron, Samantha Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attend a service of thanksgiving to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II takes place at St Paul's Cathedral, London. (Photo credit: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire)

  • British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (R) and his wife Frances (L) arrive for a national service of thanksgiving for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations with a thanksgiving service and ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

  • British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) and his wife Ffion (R) arrive for a national service of thanksgiving for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations with a thanksgiving service and ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Prince William (L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R) leave Saint Paul's Cathedral after a national service of thanksgiving for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations with a thanksgiving service and ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) follows the Sword of State carried into St Paul's Cathedral for a national service of thanksgiving for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in London on June 5, 2012. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wraps up four days of diamond jubilee celebrations with a thanksgiving service and ceremonial carriage procession in London, a formal contrast to the spectacular pop tribute staged outside Buckingham Palace the day before. (Photo credit: JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/GettyImages)