Julian Speaks in Key Welfare Debate
January 10, 2013
On Tuesday 8th January 2013, Julian spoke in a crucial welfare debate in the House of Commons. A full copy of Julian’s contribution can be found below:-
“It is a great privilege to be called to speak in this sensitive and important debate. Any debate that focuses on our welfare system tends to provoke a great deal of passion, and it can be all too easy for politicians of all parties to fall into lazy arguments based on simplistic generalisations or preconceived ideas.
Our welfare system is a valuable part of our social fabric. Even a believer in a small state, like me, can believe that we should unquestionably support those in our society who fall on desperately hard times, either temporarily or permanently. For those who find themselves truly in need, support must be provided through our welfare system as a safety net for the most vulnerable.
However, the idea that our welfare system was sufficiently reliable or fair upon the formation of the coalition Government in 2010 is simply ludicrous. First, the system that we inherited was simply unaffordable, costing taxpayers more than £87 billion in 2010 alone. Such enormous outgoings must be reviewed and targeted for efficiencies. To suggest that a desire to reduce the cost of the welfare system is akin to not supporting vulnerable people is nonsense. In fact, I would argue that a shrinking welfare budget would be a key indicator of a successful welfare system.
That brings me to my second point which is about the wider welfare situation that we inherited in 2010. It was creating a culture of sheer dependency in certain parts of the system and contributing towards the dangerous social divide that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins) touched upon.
An effective and fair welfare system should support those who tragically suffer from difficult medical conditions and those who find themselves in abject poverty. However, benefits that are simply rolled out and increased without question and without any regard for the wider economic situation threaten to give our whole welfare system a bad name. Thus our benefits must always be questioned, our welfare system always honed and the key question of fairness always addressed. The votes in the House later today must be made with fairness in mind—fairness to those who receive benefits and those whose taxes pay for them.
We cannot adequately or logically debate this issue without considering the fiscal implications of increasing benefits and the fairness of those implications. The key fact used by the Secretary of State—that over the past five years some benefits have increased by 20% while workers have experienced an average pay increase of 10% to 12%—is enough to set alarm bells ringing. If we are to ensure that our welfare system is a source of pride and not resentment, we cannot justify such increases when wider taxpayers are suffering in a tough economic climate.
The welfare system—including benefits—is a delicate balancing act and by ignoring valid concerns about the system’s cost and efficiency we risk its future reputation and, by extension, its effectiveness. Capping benefit increases to 1% for the time being is a step of reason that will add to the Government’s wider package of welfare reforms to rebalance our welfare system for the benefit of claimants, while also helping to restore public confidence in the fairness of that system.
We should all remember and appreciate that decisions on such matters have a real impact on real lives. Nevertheless, to improve the fairness, efficiency and effectiveness of our welfare system for those most truly in need, I believe that the measures in the Bill are both necessary and justified. As in many areas of government, our tough decisions will not only reverse deficits and improve efficiencies but will save some of the public provision that the Opposition drove to the brink of bankruptcy when in office. I therefore urge all Members to support the Bill today.”