Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, in the House of Commons on 29 January 2019.
I will accept your guidance, Mr Speaker.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) for plenty of reasons, but specifically because he happens to have what I think is possibly the most beautiful constituency in the country—and my heart is there because both my parents are buried there, as are many of my ancestors. There are some links between us, beyond a wee drop now and then.
In the limited time available to me, I want to respond to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. She gave us a challenge—quite rightly, I think—at the beginning of what was, I must say, an excellent speech. She said that we had spent a lot of time telling everyone what we were against, and that now we must say what we were in favour of. In accepting that challenge, I shall say what I am against, and then come on to what I am in favour of. I shall do that quickly, I hope.
I shall oppose the amendment tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve). He remains a friend, an honourable friend, and he is much admired: he was, I thought, an excellent Attorney General. However, I disagree with him on this specific issue. I do not think—this is my view, and we will have different feelings about it—that the House needs another process, or mechanism, to allow it to decide what it is in favour of or against. I think that all multiple motions of this kind end up with a place like this going nine ways from Sunday, and we do not end up with any kind of agreement. I think that the amendment process is a way of deciding what we are in favour of. My right hon. and learned Friend will push his amendment tonight, and I think we will then get an idea of whether the House really does think that.
Let me comment in the same light, but for a different reason, on the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) proposing a delay. Like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I do not think that, of all the things we need right now, we need to book a delay regardless of what we are actually delaying for. I am conscious of the way in which the Commission has responded to the idea of a delay in recent days. Its response has been, “We do not want you to delay, because we do not want you to crash into all our procedures that we have now allowed. For instance, you are not taking part in the European elections—we do not want those to be disrupted—and we do not know what it is that you want to delay for. ”
The amendment contains no appendage, as it were, telling us what the delay might actually be about. I can understand someone saying, “We are near the end of an agreement, but we have run out of time a bit”, but that is different from simply crying out for a delay. I think that, ultimately, it comes down to the fact that, as many on the right hon. Lady’s own side have said, it will then become a reality that we are opposing the delivery of Brexit. Those who vote for the amendment tonight will have to face that challenge: perhaps the delay is really all about stopping Brexit. However, I will leave the right hon. Lady to deal with that herself. I admire her enormously, as I would, but on this issue, I disagree with her completely.
As for the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Dame Caroline Spelman), again, I just do not think that this one works. The issue of a delay—even expressed as it is in the terms of a motion—brings me back to where I was earlier. I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me, but I will not support her tonight. I shall go with the Prime Minister on this.
I want to make two further points and then a comment about what I think I must support tonight. I voted against the agreement; I did so because I felt it was too full of problems and issues that would not be settled and would give a lack of clarity, and so I expressed my view. I have not voted against the Government for well over 20 years, and I did not particularly enjoy doing it, but I did so because I felt that we needed to rethink this and go back and make some changes. So I am pleased tonight that the Prime Minister has come back.
I challenge those who say that the only thing available is the backstop as it is. That is not altogether true; it depends what question is being asked. An open border, which is the key question that Ireland wanted, can be settled by a much simpler backstop. I am in favour of a backstop; I think it is fair for Ireland and Northern Ireland to want guarantees that there will be an open border, so I am in favour of an open border and of that guarantee. I am just not in favour of the complexity and nature of the demands that left Northern Ireland separated in terms from this Union that we are in favour of keeping Northern Ireland in. That led to serious and significant problems. I believe that the protocol that we have, and that I have been to see the negotiating team in Brussels over, is the key to the way we go forward, and I believe its response to us was positive. I therefore think it would be good to take that process back to Brussels.
This brings me to what has emerged overnight, which I have been involved with myself, although not absolutely in the frontline. It is an agreement between those of us who take different views about Brexit in my party. I am thinking in particular of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan). I say absolutely genuinely to my colleagues that we might be divided about these issues, but we must now strive to find some kind of compromise. I say that as if it is somehow a discovery, but it is not really; I do genuinely think we have the prospect of moving towards that. So however we vote tonight, I hope we will, bit by bit, get behind the process that my colleagues have put forward with those of other colleagues who have taken a very different view about Brexit. I think this is wholly feasible, and I am in full support of this, given the nature of it. I therefore recommend that all of us, despite how we end up voting tonight, recognise that in delivering leaving the European Union in line with the vote that took place in the referendum, this offers a real opportunity not just for Members on my side of the House but for Members opposite who believe that it is right to deliver Brexit to get behind it.
So now I come to what I am in favour of, which started with the issue of this internal agreement here. We need what the Prime Minister described today: we need to express that view. The Prime Minister was clear on a number of points that I particularly wanted to hear. I wanted to hear whether she was determined to ensure that, where necessary, we looked for legally binding change and that change therefore would change the complexion of the agreement that she had, and she said that today. I also thought she was very clear to the whole House that she is not going to assume that were a particular amendment to be passed it would mean we would all agree with whatever she came back with, and she has absolutely guaranteed that we will return with a chance to vote on that; I think that is clear.
I am also pleased that the Prime Minister answered my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on the question about the extent of the legal powers and the adjudication of the Court of Justice in the Bill to follow; I thought it was strong of her to do that. Many would have avoided that question, as it is complex. Most of my hon. Friend’s questions are quite complex, but she dealt with this one and dealt with it well.
Trying to keep to the time limit for speeches, I shall now simply say that on that basis, having voted against the agreement, I am now going to support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady). I shall support it tonight, not because I give a blank cheque and not because I think that therefore we will have solved the problem; I give this support to him, and therefore to what the Prime Minister has said is the Government’s position, because I believe it is necessary for us now to send the Prime Minister back with a fair wind and a sense that this House has agreed that it wants her to go and renegotiate, and to take that change and that desire to deliver Brexit on time on 29 March with her over there to Brussels and achieve what I hope and believe, with strength and determination, she will be able to achieve in those negotiations. I wish her well, and I therefore will be voting tonight to support that amendment because I think it will be, for me, the greatest expression of my good will for a Prime Minister for whom, notwithstanding our disagreements sometimes, I have the greatest respect.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, on 26 April 2002.
As Leader of the Conservative Party, I have had the privilege of meeting with and addressing a number of Jewish organisations.
Almost every time I have done so, it has been against a backdrop of great sadness.
I have spoken to Jewish audiences just days after yet another suicide terrorist attack on Israel, just days after anti-Semitic incidents across Europe and just days after an article in the press written by a Jewish author urging more understanding of Israel’s plight.
Unfortunately, as I stand here today, the backdrop is no different.
But this time, there is an added factor. In my conversations with British Jews, I get a sense that there is deep anxiety and unease amongst the British Jewish community about the fate of Israel and public opinion.
Last week on Radio 4, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke passionately and eloquently about this unease. He reminded listeners that Israel had suffered 12,500 terrorist attacks – almost one hour of every day of every week.
He urged that the media to be more balanced in its criticism of Israel.
I agree. When watching our TV news bulletins I am often struck by the lack of sense of proportion and tendency to succumb to moral relativism.
Of course the crisis in Israel and the West Bank is a tragedy: a tragedy for Palestinians and Israelis. When innocents die wherever they come from we must all grieve.
Yet to insinuate that this is the fault of Israel is to wilfully misrepresent the facts. After all, the peace process – when Mr Barak’s proposals at both Camp David and Taba were turned down by Yassar Arafat.
Criticism should therefore be.
We will disagree with Israel sometimes about tactics. We urge that Mr Sharon withdraws speedily from the West Bank Towns.
It is the duty of any Government to protect their citizens from terror.
Just as the United States and the free world were right to pursue Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the outrage of September 11, so the Israelis have a right to react against the terrorists who are trying to destroy her very existence.
All the peace plans currently on offer will not work unless the Palestinian leadership grasp the nettle and no longer give succour to terrorists.
Neither is the cause of peace helped by those who should know better seeking to fan the flames of hatred by encouraging suicide bombers.
It is no good Chairman Arafat on the one hand writing in the New York Times an article condemning terror and recognising Israel’s right to exist and on the other covertly giving impetus to terrorist organisations like Hamas.
There must be no doubt that if the Palestinians are really committed to peace, the Palestinian Authority can call off the terrorists – just as they did for 24 days last Christmas.
We support the Tenet peace plan and Mitchell proposals and welcome the dialogue begun by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. However, one vital key to the whole peace process must be the short and long term guarantee of Israel’s security, within secure and internationally recognised boundaries.
For its part, my party will work hard with the Government and President Bush to achieve these goals.
Moreover whilst we may differ with Israel over specific actions we must do all we can to support the values she stands for because these are the values that distinguish democracies from dictatorships and will underpin a real and lasting peace.
The British Jewish Community and Anti-Semitism
One of the alarming consequences of the problems facing Israel has been the resurgence of anti Semitism and the increased anxiety amongst Jewish communities in Europe.
Le Pen on the rampage in France, Jorg Haider in Austria and the rise of extremist parties elsewhere in Europe will heighten these forebodings.
I heard of marchers in Bournemouth shouting death to the Jews.
I am increasingly concerned when I hear reports of attacks on British Jews. 310 individuals alone last year.
But I am saddened when I hear members of the ‘chattering classes’ indulge in thinly veiled ‘salon anti-Semitism’.
The apparent remarks by poet Tom Paulin, that American Jewish settlers were ‘Nazis’ and should be shot are – if accurate – unforgivable.
When I think of these things, I am reminded of a recent meeting I had with a European Conference of Jewish community leaders. I told them of a powerful statement by Martin Luther King:
You declare my friend that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist…when people criticise Zionism, they mean Jews. This is God’s own truth. Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic and ever will be so”.
Of course this does not mean that we can never criticise Israel or question her activities. I have some misgivings about the long-term course which Mr Sharon is engaged in but I understand the need for defence against the suicide bombers. But I think that the Israeli people will be quick to distinguish between those who are her real, but candid friends and those who want to use attacks on Israeli actions as an excuse for justifying their prejudices.
The Jewish Contribution
I think it was Peter Ustinov who once said:
I believe that the Jews have made a contribution to the human condition out of all proportion to their numbers: I believe them to be an immense people. Not only have they supplied the world with two leaders of the stature of Jesus Christ or Karl Marx, but they have even indulged in the luxury of following neither one nor the other!”
Jewish communities embody principles of family, neighbourliness and responsibility towards those in need.
Nowhere has this been truer than in Britain, where you have offered beacons of hope to the vulnerable amongst your community.
I understand that you have a Hebrew statement for this; Tzedekah (the act of giving).
Today’s society faces a paradox perhaps never faced before.
We have more choice than ever but more insecurity.
We have more mobility, yet our communities and neighbourhoods are breaking down.
We have more generous welfare benefits yet so many are still impoverished.
We are spending billions on our public services yet not getting the services we require.
In short we have entered an age of deep insecurity and anxiety not just in the global village but the moment we open our front door to our own neighbourhoods.
Of one thing I am certain. If we are to ease that insecurity. If we are to fill the vacuum that exists at the heart of our neighbourhoods and communities, then we must make every effort to pin together what we have termed “the neighbourly society”.
This will not be achieved by state intervention alone.
To build a strong infrastructure in our neighbourhoods, and therefore help those most in need, we must have a thriving network of strong families, community groups, voluntary associations, faith inspired organisations and others – all dedicated to public service and responsibility to others.
It is only this network that can buttress the foundations of the neighbourly society.
I agree with the historian of the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, Mr Heinz Skyte when he writes:
“the ethos of voluntarily contributing to the society, which nurtures us is deeply ingrained”.
This is the essence of Conservatism and what I mean when I say that my party will stop at nothing to help the most vulnerable people in our country – whether it be in the Easterhouse Estate in Glasgow, which I visited recently, London or in Leeds.
To achieve these things, we need not always start from scratch.
We need to look at organisations and individuals that are working hard to transform their communities. We need to visit them to learn best practice and see what more can be done to help them flourish.
We need to understand how it is that politicians so often create the problem of dependency which has blighted our society.
Since you were first established as the Jewish Board of Guardians in 1878, your whole purpose has been to provide relief to the poor, children, the old, the mentally ill and disabled, all through initiative, hard work and voluntary action.
What better demonstration is there of support for the family, community and those in need?
It seems to me that your commitment to family is deeply rooted at the heart of your organisation. I am told that Mr Robert Manning, your President who has done so much to make the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board the success that it has become, is the son of a previous President.
Moreover, I think I am right in saying that Mr Edward Ziff who has worked so hard to raise funds is part of a third generation dynasty of the Ziff family that has been on the Board since the 1940s.
There can’t be many better examples of the importance of family ties.
Your initiative has enabled you to raise £1.5 million on provision of vital services for the Jewish community in Leeds.
I am told that you have even found an ingenious use for the Euro in persuading people to part with approximately £2000 pounds in obsolete foreign currency.
That is one currency I hope helps you more, as it becomes more obsolete.
Through all your work, you have shown that the neighbourly society is something that really can be achieved.
That working within one’s community from the grassroots upwards to help the needy can have astonishing results – far better than any top-heavy, top-down, bureaucratised ‘anti-poverty’ scheme emanating from Whitehall.
When I look at this achievement, alongside the many others of the Jewish community; in education, in charity, in philanthropy and the professions I have no doubt that the Jewish sense of identity and tradition will continue be as vibrant as ever through our future generations.
When I think of the contribution made by the Chief Rabbi and other senior Jewish leaders to our national life and to civil society I am confident that this difficult period for the Jewish community will pass and that you will go from strength to strength.
That is why I believe it is incumbent on those of us in positions of influence to ensure that this is so. Britain’s proud status as an open and tolerant society depends upon it. It is the right and proper thing to fight for such tolerance and remind ourselves that friendship is for bad times as well as good.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, at the London Chamber of Commerce on 18 April 2002.
It is a great pleasure to be with you at your President’s lunch today and I am extremely grateful to you for your kind invitation.
I’m looking forward to what is usually described as a full and frank discussion about the Budget in a few moments, but first I would like to set out where I think things stand.
Today’s newspapers are full of headlines about Gordon Brown punishing small businesses and their workers to pump more money into public services.
But none of this is new.
The Chancellor spent his first five Budgets raising taxes by stealth. He piled on £6 billion a year in extra taxes and another £5 billion a year in regulation.
What we saw yesterday was simply the final stripping away of the veneer of New Labour and a return to old-style tax and spend in spades.
With his increase in National Insurance contributions he broke cover.
The CBI estimates that the cost of doing business has gone up by £2.5 billion after yesterday.
The Federation of Small Business said that small firms will face a £2 billion bill to cover his National Insurance hike, and called the Chancellor’s Budget ‘a sickener’.
The British Chambers of Commerce said that Business Competitiveness had taken a step backwards.
The fact is the increase in Employers’ National Insurance contributions is purely and simply a tax on jobs.
And with people on average earnings having to pay an extra £214 pounds a year in tax from their income, it will also influence pay negotiations going forwards.
These things dwarf the eye-catching measures made by the Chancellor such as the reduction in the small companies corporation tax rate, the simplification of VAT and his research and development credit.
Overall his measures amount to an effective increase in Corporation Tax of 3%, except that they will bite on all firms no matter how profitable they are, no matter how small they are.
They will hit labour-intensive industries such as those in the service sector particularly hard.
And that includes those public services like health, education and the police that he says he is seeking to improve with his tax increases.
The NHS is Europe’s largest employer. Well over half its total costs are staff costs.
How much of yesterday’s NHS funding increases announced by the Chancellor yesterday will be eaten up by NICs increases for employers?
And what of the employees? A senior nurse will now be more than £300 a year worse off as a result of yesterday’s tax changes.
Will senior nurses not want a pay increase to compensate for the extra tax they are having to pay?
The total cost could be a billion pounds.
No wonder Tony Blair and Gordon Brown got a warmer reception than they were hoping for from an irate nurse when they went to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital this morning.
She was right to say the Chancellor he had scored ‘an own goal’ by raising National Insurance on poorly-paid NHS staff.
And that is not the only own goal he has scored.
The Chancellor’s budget speaks volumes about his attitude to small businesses, many of them already struggling to survive under the burden of regulations he has imposed.
None more so than care homes – a crucial part of how we care for the vulnerable in our society.
Care homes have been closing all over the country as a result of the costs the Government has imposed on them.
They are labour-intensive businesses: around 80 per cent of their costs are labour costs.
The smallest care homes now operate on profit margins of less than 5 per cent.
Raising employers’ NICs by 1 per cent will reduce their profits by almost a fifth.
More and more care home owners will find that they can earn a better living by investing their money in a building society rather than by providing care for the elderly.
As the Chief Executive of the Registered Nursing Home Association said today:
‘For those care home owners who are already teetering on the brink, this tax increase on wages could be the final straw. Many care home owners could say “I’ve had enough”‘.
What kind of message is that to send to small businesses?
What kind of message is that for the Chancellor to send to the elderly?
But all of this is merely a down payment on future tax rises.
Now the Chancellor has turned on the tap, he will find it very hard to turn it off again.
His current increases in public spending only take us up to the next Election. Whatever he says at that Election he would ultimately need to raise taxes again, perhaps by as much as £6 billion a year during the next Parliament.
And not all of this would even go on schools and hospitals. Over the past five years welfare bills have increased faster than the money into health and education.
But at least the British people will know next time that he will tax, tax and tax again.
At the last Election, just ten months ago, Gordon Brown who once called National Insurance ‘a tax on ordinary families’ rejected claims he would jack up NICs as ‘smears that I utterly repudiate’.
After yesterday, no-one will ever believe a word they say again.
The tough medicine he dispensed yesterday is only part of a repeat prescription.
But will it work? The Chancellor has firmly closed his mind to any meaningful reform of the Health Service and has decided instead to try and spend his way to decent healthcare in this country.
In that sense it is a real gamble. We should never forget that in his first five years he had already increased real resources going into the NHS by one-third.
Consider the results of that approach.
Waiting lists are rising again.
Accident and Emergency waits have got longer.
The odds of surviving cancer in this country are among the worst in Europe.
Hospital beds are blocked and care home beds are being closed.
The NHS has to send patients abroad to be treated.
And last year a quarter of a million people paid for their own operations out of their own pockets, a record.
I heard Gordon Brown this morning on television and radio saying the NHS was the best health insurance scheme in the world.
To be honest I don’t think French patients, German patients or Swedish patients lie in their beds wishing they were British. Quite the reverse in fact.
Under the Chancellor’s plan, by 2007/8 the NHS as a whole will be spending roughly what a country like France spends today. But Wales and Northern Ireland already spend that now and their treatment of patients is worse.
At the end of the day it isn’t simply about money, it is about changing the way that money is spent.
Yes, we need to spend more money on health, but we also need to learn lessons from those countries who deliver healthcare to their people than we do.
I challenged Tony Blair on this point at Prime Minister’s Question Time before Christmas.
I asked him whether once we matched the European average on health spending we could look forward to European standards of health care. He said yes.
So today I issue this challenge to the Chancellor, if he matches European spending on health will he get rid of waiting lists as they have in Germany?
Will he give patients a legal right to treatment within four weeks of seeing their GP as they have in Denmark?
Will patients be able to go to the doctor and the hospital of their choice as they do in Stockholm?
Will Gordon Brown come with me as I visit Italy and Spain in the weeks to come to see what Britain can learn from the way they run health care there?
For in the end that is how yesterday’s Budget will ultimately be judged.
On whether it deliver things to people in Britain – especially our elderly and our vulnerable – that the citizens of other countries take for granted.
I think the Chancellor’s past record is a guide to his future performance.
He has closed his mind to genuine reform.
He is about to spend a lot of money on a system which is outdated, overly-centralised and incapable of using that money properly.
1970s methods used on a 1940s institution will not deliver 21st century standards.
In the process he will damage our competitiveness and make things more difficult for hardworking families.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, on 10 May 2016.
Today I want to briefly explain why the EU, particularly for the UK has become a force for social injustice and why leaving provides a vital opportunity for us to be able to develop policies that will protect the people who often find themselves at the sharp end of global economic forces and technological change. My plea to better off Britons who have done well in recent years is to consider using their vote in the referendum to vote for a better deal for people who haven’t enjoyed the same benefits as them. Because the EU, despite its grand early intentions, has become a friend of the haves rather than the have-nots.
Take the euro, for example. It has greatly favoured already wealthy Germany and its export industries at the expense of southern Europe. The euro has meant serious unemployment for millions of young Greeks, Portuguese, Spaniards and Italians and has produced political extremism. The EU is also working well for big banks. The bailouts being financed by extreme levels of austerity in countries like Greece have largely benefited financial institutions that lent irresponsibly before the crash. The EU is also working for big corporates that benefit from mass immigration. Businesses that have under-invested for decades in the productivity and training of their own and local workforces have no reason to mend their ways so long as cheap labour can be imported from abroad.
But if the EU is working for Germany, for banks, for big corporates and for the public affairs companies with large lobbying operations in Brussels, the EU isn’t working for over regulated small businesses and lower-paid and lower-skilled Britons. They now have to compete with millions of people from abroad for jobs and a wage rise. The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee reported that for every 100 migrants employed twenty three UK born workers would have been displaced.
The construction of the Olympic Park was a powerful illustration of the way in which immigrants undercut UK workers through their willingness to endure family-unfriendly living conditions. Visiting job centres in East London at the time I met both skilled and unskilled workers who struggled to get work on the site. When I asked why they said that people from Eastern Europe, often living in bedsits, without UK housing and family costs, hugely underbid them for their work. Since then those stories have been borne out by the facts. Despite the all the statements about the Olympic Park helping British workers, we now know that nearly half of all the jobs on the site went to foreign nationals.
Given this evidence, I find the Labour party’s current position ironic. As Frank Field has pointed out, in saying they are now in favour of staying in the EU they are acting against the interests of the communities they purport to serve. Even Stuart Rose of the Stronger In campaign has admitted that immigration cuts the pay of the poor in a rare moment of candour – and acknowledged that wages will go up for many Britons if immigration is restricted.
The downward pressure on wages is a trend will only get worse if we continue to have open borders with the EU – and would get most difficult in a recession. A Bank of England study in December 2015 concluded: ‘the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 percent reduction in pay’.
This significantly affects British workers – especially those on low wages.
We know that EU migration has increased by 50% since 2010. If the number of EU jobseekers entering the UK over the next decade remains at current levels, some 690,000 people would be added to the UK population as a direct result. And with 5 more countries due to join, that number looks conservative. This would be the equivalent of a city the size of Glasgow.
Another big negative economic effect of the level of immigration that the British people have never voted for – and do not want- is on house prices. Young people are the biggest losers from this. They are being forced to pay an ever larger share of their incomes on accommodation, are suffering longer commutes and often have to move far away from their families. We need to build around 240 houses every day for the next 20 years just to be able to cope with increased demand from future migration. Of course there are a number of issues in the difficulty to get housing in the UK but the impact of uncontrolled immigration make it a major factor in the demand for housing. Official data shows that over the last fifteen years, over two thirds (66%) of the additional households created in the UK were headed by a person born abroad.
The struggle to get on the housing ladder is one that affects families up and down the UK. Such is the pressure that the average age for a first time buyer is now 31.
Everyone should have the opportunity to own their own home, but as the EU continues to expand to other countries such as Macedonia, Albania, and Turkey, the population pressures that remaining in the EU would bring can only make that prospect less likely.
And as the Government’s own recent figures show, to cope with the kind of pressure that immigration is placing on the schools system the taxpayer is having to find extra school places equivalent to building 27 new average-sized secondary schools or 100 new primary schools. So my Vote Leave and Conservative colleague Priti Patel was correct when she highlighted the fact that as always, when public services are under pressure, those without the resources to afford alternatives are most vulnerable. In short, getting a place in your local school gets more and more difficult.
The heavy burden of EU regulation is particularly hard on the smaller businesses that, all evidence shows, are the best route back into the workforce for the unemployed. Even though the vast majority of these businesses never trade with the EU they are subject to EU red tape at the cost of tens of billions of pounds. Those regulations don’t just mean lower profits for small entrepreneurs, they also mean fewer new businesses starting up and fewer jobs created.
Then there are the higher grocery prices that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy has produced. The independent House of Commons Library has concluded that EU membership actually increases the cost of living, stating that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy ‘artificially inflates food prices’ and that ‘consumer prices across a range of other goods imported from outside the EU are raised as a result of the common external tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade imposed by the EU. These include footwear (a 17% tariff), bicycles (15% tariff) and a range of clothing (12% tariff)’.
This may not sound a lot for better off British families – but for many it might be the difference between paying the rent or not paying the rent.
And this takes me back to my central appeal to what I think are the best, compassionate instincts of the British people. When you vote on 23rd June – even if you believe what you are being told by those who want to remain in the EU; that you may have done ok from the EU – think about the people who haven’t and, just as importantly, think about the economic changes that are coming fast down the track and ask, very seriously, whether a Britain in charge of all policy levers will be better equipped to cope with those changes than a Britain that is still part of what, all evidence suggests, is the dysfunctional, declining, high unemployment EU.
Because this EU vote is happening at a time of enormous global economic upheaval. We are at a point in the development of the world economy where, if we are not careful, we are going to see an explosion of have-nots. We are going to see increasing divides between people who have a home of their own and those who are, to coin a phrase, at the back of a queue – a lengthening queue – to ever get on the housing ladder. People who have jobs that aren’t threatened by automation and people who live in the shadow of the impact of technological innovation. People who benefit from the immigration of cheap nannies and baristas and labourers – and people who can’t find work because of uncontrolled immigration.
I have always wanted people to be able to own their own home but that gets more difficult particularly for young people through our inability to control the scale of migration.
We are entering a long period of much slower growth than we’ve been used to. We are entering a period when white collar jobs are going to be replaced by technology on the same scale that innovation has already replaced many manual, industrial and other blue collar jobs. In the coming decades the populations of China and India and other developing countries will be increasingly educated and will compete more directly with us. In this world we need to be nimble and we need to do everything we can to ensure that those likely to be most affected by these changes are, ideally, equipped to meet them or, if necessary, are cushioned from their worst effects.
Britain avoided the high unemployment and savage austerity that many Eurozone nations suffered because we wisely ignored the advice of groups like the CBI and retained sterling. The principle that it is better to be in control of our own destiny can and should apply to all areas of national life, starting with our borders. It should cover the design of agricultural and environmental policies and the implication of those policies for grocery and energy bills. To the design of trade agreements. To fisheries policies – another regressive EU policy that has devastated some of our coastal communities. And, of course, to budget and tax policies.
If we want to cut VAT on fuel to help families afford to heat their homes, we should be free to do so. We should be able to choose how we spend the £350 million that we currently send to Brussels every week. It would in any normal world be a strange choice to make for a British government that whilst bearing down on welfare spending and other budgets since the election we continue to send to this wealthy EU hundreds of millions of taxpayers money. This is money that could help fund the NHS. It could fund extra training and infrastructure to help every Briton to thrive in the coming economic age.
The EU is fast sliding to economic irrelevance. Just look how it’s losing its share of world trade at twice the rate of the US. There are many reasons for this but one key reason is that its institutions have become irredeemably unwieldly. EU leaders and the Brussels army of bureaucrats can’t agree on how to fix the euro. They can’t agree on what to do about refugees. They cannot agree on what kind of transatlantic trade partnership they want with the USA – such that it is very unlikely that it will ever happen. They cannot agree on the kind of steel and industrial policies that will ensure that Europe doesn’t lose even more of its manufacturing base. The EU can only move as quickly as its slowest member states and that means it can only move very slowly indeed. And in today’s global economy it’s not speed that kills but indecision. EU leaders and ministers spend so much time in Brussels, not agreeing decisions, that they aren’t focused on the challenges back in their home nations.
This is the key point. No matter what those who want to remain say about the EU as a market place, the reality is that it is first and foremost a political project; the aim of which is the creation of an overarching federal power, above the nation states. It is the reason why economic common sense cannot prevail and why many Greeks are now living in third world conditions, Italian banks are becoming insolvent and terrible levels of youth unemployment have become, for the EU a terrible price worth paying.
Yet outside of the EU an independent Britain can design migration, agricultural, environmental, budgetary and trade policies that the rest of Europe seems sadly incapable of agreeing upon.
I hope I’ve persuaded you that leaving the EU is in the clear interests of social justice within Britain. Let me end by saying I I also think it could also advance social justice across the whole continent. A vote to Leave by the British people might be the shock to the EU system that is so desperately needed. Perhaps I’m being unrealistic. The EU does not have a good track record of changing course after member states have voted against the EU project in referenda. But Brexit – coming after the Greek crisis, after so much impossibly high youth unemployment, after the election of so many extremist parties –should be the moment when Brussels finally decides to give member states more freedom to design economic, social and migration policies that reflect the democratic will and particular needs of each individual state. Given we are so uninfluential inside the EU, our maximum moment of influence might be in leaving. Confronting the rest of the EU with the need and opportunity to radically change its structures is the most socially just and, indeed, European-friendly service that Britain can provide to our neighbours across the Channel.
Surely like me you believe the UK can do better. Why should we set such a low vision about our future by tying it to this failing project.
Inside the EU our politicians can only talk of what we would like to do to change things knowing they will achieve very little. Outside the EU we can change our destiny and dare to believe in the greatness of all our citizens.
Britain deserves better than this which is why on 23rd June we should take back control and vote for our own British independence day.
Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Iain Duncan Smith in the House of Commons on 20 May 1992.
I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election. As this is my maiden speech, I ask the House to bear with me if I make a series of mistakes.
Earlier, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) reminded the House of the great honour that our electorate bestow upon us in permitting us to represent their views and interests in a sovereign Parliament. I may point out that Chingford is officially part of Greater London, not Essex. Having heard the recent results in Basildon, I am sad that it is not part of Essex.
The majority of the people who live in Chingford have striven for a long time to buy their own properties, take care of their own lives, and make the most that they can—to hand on to future generations—from hard work and the sweat of their own brows. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends will immediately recognise those as key principles that have supported conservatism, and which my party promoted during the whole of the 1980s. Chingford represents those interests, and we represent Chingford’s interests.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Milligan) mentioned that there is a factory producing Mr. Kipling cakes in his constituency. I cannot boast of such a place, but we do have the London Rubber Company in the middle of my constituency. That company is heavily linked to today’s debate. The House may recall the little problem that existed with the Italian regulations, on the size or width of certain items that London Rubber produces—so it has a keen interest in what goes on here.
Few constituencies are so associated with a particular individual as Chingford. I refer of course to my predecessor, Norman Tebbit. Some may remember only the “Spitting Image” vision of a leather jacket, studs, and chains—but I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will keep in mind the image of a man of incisive wit, telling rebukes, and most of all, reforming zeal.
If it were only for his political achievements, Norman would be remembered as one of the most important figures in British political history—but he is remembered for much more than that. The House owes him a great debt. On that terrible night in Brighton, the lives of Norman, Margaret, and their family were devastatingly and treacherously changed for the worst—yet at no time has Norman or Margaret complained, and they consistently serve as a great inspiration to me and many others.
It is not overstating the case to say that Norman brought great honour to the House. I know that all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in wishing him great happiness in the future, in all that he does.
So often in the past when Europe has been debated, there has been a knee-jerk level to the debates. It is said that there are those who are pro-Europe—the Europhiles—and those who are anti-Europe—the Euro-sceptics. If the issue is always polarised in that way, it will be impossible to have a rational debate. The question is rather, whether we want to interrogate certain aspects and regulations or not, the public have a right to know the detail, and it is important that we examine the detail of the treaty and put it before them. I will attempt to do that this evening.
Let me begin by congratulating my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor on their great negotiating skills, which have produced the treaty that is now before us. Their achievements in securing our exclusion from the social chapter protocol, and in reserving Parliament’s right to decide whether to enter currency union, are greatly appreciated by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
As I read the treaty, however, I must confess to a growing disquiet. My chief worry is that, despite the Government’s considerable successes, we remain locked into what I see as a continuing progression towards a European super-state. I consider that neither necessary nor desirable.
Maastricht—following, as it does, from the Single European Act and the treaty of Rome—embodies that movement; perhaps it is proceeding at a slower rate in this context, but it is a movement none the less. Let me explain—echoing what was said earlier by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies)—that my reasons for believing that are based fundamentally on the ethos that exists in the institutions that the Community now contains. I refer chiefly to the European Commission and the European Court.
In my view, successive Governments have failed fully to understand the way in which the Commission seeks constantly to advance its competence. In so doing, it will be supported by the European Court. The Commission is not just a bureaucratic body, as so many people seem to think; it has substantial law-making powers—very excutive powers. Beyond those powers, it exists as much to propose legislation to the Council of Ministers. Through its performance of both those roles, constant pressure will continue to extend the process of European integration.
All too often, press and politicians talk about Delors as though he were an expletive. His role is quite clear to him; I believe that it is our understanding of that role that is unclear. Obviously, the European institutions hold the key to the concern that I feel over Maastricht—the Single European Act and, originally, the treaty of Rome.
The European Court of Justice has the role of interpreting and applying Community law. Through the interpretation that it gives the treaties within the Community, it can and does fundamentally affect the balance between nation states and the Community. The Court, through its judgments, cannot be considered neutral by any means: it is part of those key institutions that consider it their duty constantly to push forward the concept of the Community, ultimately at the expense of the nation state.
An example of that is provided by a judgment in a case brought by the Netherlands against the high authority. The power of the Court was defined by the Court as the ultima ratio enabling the Community interest enshrined in the Treaty to prevail over inertia and resistance of member states. Many other judgments also illustrate the point.
The history of the European Court clearly shows, time and again, that it will be far from impartial, invariably finding in favour of what it perceives as the interest of the Community. Furthermore, the difference between the tradition of common law that exists in this country and the tradition of Continental law—based, as it is, so fundamentally on the code Napoleon—means, essentially, that the European Court will regularly fall back on the preambles to treaties, and will use them to interpret points, as it sees them, within the spirit of the agreement—the members. Every treaty that we have ever signed has given the Court greater scope to interpret.
The preamble to the treaty of Rome raises general provisions urging member states to attain ever closer union with general objectives. To most common law lawyers, that might appear fairly general on the surface. However, it is a major signpost in continental law. The preamble to the Single European Act is full of references to the states implementing a union. Article I clearly refers to progress towards European unity—a major signpost for the European Court.
Here we seem constantly to have disregarded the general wording of the preambles to the treaties. Under common law, they are not part of any agreement, but in the code Napoleon and continental law, they form a major part of any agreement. The treaty on European union sets out no less clearly in its preamble that defence, foreign policy, economic and social policies and the free movement of people are all set to converge in ways which on the surface may appear rather general but which will be critical to the functioning of the treaty. Therefore, across a full range of matters the Maastricht treaty extends further the areas to which Community law applies.
Given the natural desire to the Community institutions constantly to push forward with closer ties and greater compliance, it is natural that they will seek to find areas that are open to extensive secondary legislation affecting our national life that have not yet been affected.
That can be clearly seen in the proposals for a 48-hour working week. We never perceived under the Single European Act that that would necessarily be the case, but the Community—in the shape of the Commission, ultimately supported by the European court—pushes for that extra bit to be brought to the Commission, under majority voting. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is doing all she can to sort this out, and I wish her the very best of luck. However, I remain a touch pessimistic about the outcome.
Both sides of the House have made much of subsidiarity, probably because most people do not have a clue what the heck it means. I suspect that some hon. Members on both sides of the House also fall into that category. It is the devolving of power to a lower level, as perceived by the treaty—that of nation states. As a means of trying to retain control over our national identity, it should be given some approval, but if we look back we see that it is a two-edged sword. It very much cuts both ways.
Originally it was a papal concept. That concept was about power that could flow downwards to the constituent parts of the papal dominion. The key factor was that that power had to be given, as judged by the central authority. In line with that, if we come forward to Maastricht again, we see that it could imply that anything that cannot be justified at national level should, therefore, be taken to the European level. That is the other edge of the cutting sword: that the Community could easily turn round and say, “Justify the fact that you have the right to retain control over that area; otherwise, we shall take it under our powers and competence.” It therefore follows that the European Court would ultimately find in favour of the Community. That is part of its ethos.
Therefore, I propose some measure of reform which I believe we must undertake if we are to make sure that the sort of Europe that we want to see is the one that goes through and that we can control. First, I propose that we should repeal sections 1 and 2 of the European Community Act 1972 and replace them with clear statements about this Parliament’s supremacy over all European Community activities that affect the relationship between this House and the courts—and, in fact, all other constitutional matters.
Secondly, we should set about reforming the Commission, starting with the European Court. We should position a constitutional court over the Community, I stress, to take an impartial position on questions which affect the competence of nation states.
Thirdly, the Commission should be slimmed down, losing many of its existing portfolios. We should get rid of the position of the President and make the Commission more of a non-executive body. Those moderate suggestions are offered, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with some deference to your position.
Most of all, we must therefore seek to refocus the Community as one of a group of nation states determined to seek co-operation on a defined but limited number of areas. That would greatly assist the inclusion of other states, which is proposed and with which I thoroughly agree, while keeping the flow of trade as free as possible through co-operation not coercion.
From successive treaties, we have seen a growing erosion of the powers of the House to legislate, not to be overruled by the European Court. Much has been made about the exclusion of the word “federalism”. Having read the treaty time and again, I have to say that, even if we exclude it, the obvious signs are there for all to see—that is, that that is the inevitable march. After all, a bite from a rottweiler hurts just as much even if we insist on calling it a pekinese.
We are asked to support the Government. There is no doubt in my mind of the Government’s intentions, and those I support. However, the problem is that far too much trust is expected of us in this House to be vested in the institutions in the Community. I do not believe that, if we notice how the general tendency is to move towards greater integration, that trust will be well placed.
It has been ably pointed out several times that we have seen the Government and previous Governments fight rearguard actions to prevent the growing power of the Commission from encroaching. Those rearguard actions have been fought in the knowledge that we have signed up to something which has given the Commission powers to get in and take control of certain aspects of our lives.
The treaty is therefore somewhat out of date. It reflects, sadly, concerns from the past which are no longer relevant. I hope that, if we consider the problems and changes that are going on in the Community, hon. Members will agree with me. The treaty keeps the door open to a federalist, centralist and uncompetitive Europe which is clearly moving us in the wrong direction from the rest of the world.
I am not by any means anti-European. After all, Europe is a geographical expression. Therefore, being in the centre of Europe or supporting Europe is neither here nor there. The key is a European Community of nations trading and co-operating through sovereign Parliaments. There is no other time but now. I have talked to many hon. Members who have said, “Don’t worry, this matter will ultimately collapse; things will change and we will not have the problems.”
If now is not the time to put the line in the sand and say, “Thus far and no further,” when are we to say that? This matter has caused me great concern and problems early in the Parliament, but I hope in the next 24 hours to show where my true attitudes lie.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Shadow Secretary of Defence, on 3 October 2000.
Last week the Prime Minister said he had reached his irreducible core. We may not know what his irreducible core is – only his focus groups can tell him that – but we do know that he has reached it. The question is what does he do now he has reached it. I always thought that once you had finished eating an apple you threw away the core.
Today’s debate is not about the Prime Minister’s core, but about what his Government has done to the Armed Forces and how we will rectify that.
We are proud of our Armed Forces. We only need to look at the rescue of the British Army hostages in Sierra Leone to see how good they are. We are proud of their outstanding success. Yet it was not without loss. I would like to pay tribute today to all those who took part, particularly Bombardier Brad Tinnion who gave his life fighting for his comrades and his country.
Yet behind the headlines, in the Gulf our RAF pilots are fired upon nearly every day by the Iraqis. And in Kosovo and Bosnia our forces patrol an uneasy peace with calm assurance. And last week the Navy came to the rescue of the victims of the Greek ferry disaster.
Still in Northern Ireland our troops stand in support of the brave men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Let me say that again, Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Peter Mandelson says that the name conjures up the wrong image. This should come as no surprise from someone who has called our own troops ‘chinless wonders’ But for me RUC stands for dedication, service and sacrifice.
In many other areas around the globe they are the unsung heroes. But the armed forces are leaving in droves. Do you blame them?
Exercises are cancelled, soldiers are being sent into action with guns that don’t work, whilst having to use mobile phones on the battlefield, upgraded bombers that can’t drop bombs and short of enough pilots to fly them anyway.
Fighter jets that won’t have guns, ships without missiles, sailors shouting ‘bang’ in gunnery training instead of firing live ammunition. And service families living in sub-standard accommodation for too long.
Conference, a few weeks ago, people couldn’t get fuel for their cars. Well at the end of last year Navy ships were unable to leave port because they couldn’t even afford the fuel.
The result is that the Armed Forces have 5,000 fewer servicemen and women than they did when we left office. That’s the equivalent of 10 Army battalions. Or 20 destroyer crews.
Last week the Prime Minister pompously talked about difficult choices. What he didn’t say was that because of cuts, the RAF has to choose either to scrap its Tornadoes or Jaguars.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is defence of the realm – Labour style.
Yet today Robin Cook struts his stuff on the world stage, only too happy to commit our overstretched forces everywhere and anywhere. The Armed Forces are the best in the world. But the truth is that behind the gloss, they are being really hurt – yet despite that they show dedication and professionalism in marked contrast to this Government. But whilst they squabble, new threats around the world are emerging.
We are seeing a dangerous and widespread proliferation of long-range missiles, biological, chemical and even nuclear weapons taking place amongst the rogue states of the world. Missiles are now capable of reaching from the Middle East right to the heart of Europe. It won’t be long before they are able to strike here.
The Americans are responding to this new threat, developing anti-missile systems to defeat this new danger. But instead of supporting our American allies, Mr Blair has run away from the problem and instead is playing games with his plans for a Euro Army.
The Blair Government has led the creation of a Euro Army to rival NATO, and the EU is busy creating what Mr Prodi has confirmed is a European Army of some 200,000 men. Blair’s short-sighted short-term use of Defence as a bargaining chip in the corridors of power in Brussels has risked all our security.
A Conservative Government will support the Americans in their development of defences against weapons of mass destruction. And we will put paid to any divisive and political notion of a Euro Army. We want to improve European defence capabilities – but within NATO, never outside it.
But even worse, Labour believes that the Armed Forces are a social experiment in human rights. But what they don’t understand is that being a member of the armed forces isn’t about rights. They give up many of their rights to defend ours. They are expected if necessary to kill or be killed – events just a few weeks ago in Sierra Leone are a stark reminder of this fact.
Yet by applying the European Convention on Human Rights to our forces this Government is putting their effectiveness into the hands of campaign junkies, jobbing lawyers and even judges. Theirs is a creeping tide of political correctness threatening to overwhelm our forces’ military effectiveness.
So when we return to Government we will take the Armed Forces out of this politically correct morass, safeguard their unique ethos, and uphold the primacy of military effectiveness.
Labour’s policy of asking the forces to do more with less has damaged all three services. Labour’s cut of 18,000 men from the Territorial Army was vindictive. Less than a year after the cut was made they were getting ready to call them up for service in Kosovo.
In Government, I promise we will return the Territorial Army to its full effectiveness and restore their important place in support of our regulars. The Army is overstretched and 8,000 men understrength. Full manning will be a priority for a Conservative Government.
We also appreciate and value the dedication and loyalty of service families. And they will be at the centre of our thinking and our policy making.
For us defence of the realm is the first consideration of any Government. Some people say defence doesn’t matter but sixty years ago what Churchill referred to as that brilliant youth risked all in the skies above in the defence of their country and the people they loved.
My father was one of those few. And he never ceased to tell me the reason so many of his friends died was because politicians had failed to heed the warnings and left us without strong defence. But then this Government doesn’t like history ……
It’s a Government which seems to hate the country it was elected to govern, which sets one part of the country against the other. That pours hundreds of millions of pounds into a shapeless piece of foreign plastic, which no one wanted, whilst insulting pensioners and service families.
But what we understand is that no country ever created a future by making war on its past.
At the election there will be a choice between spin and substance, between being embarrassed about our nation and being ambitious for our nation.
Confident and united at last behind William Hague, ours will not be a battle just for Government but for the heart and soul of the country that we love.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to Age UK on 8 March 2011.
I’d like to thank Age UK for the invitation to speak to you today.
I want to use this opportunity to be absolutely clear about my priorities for the pension system.
When we came into office we were faced with the challenge of securing the incomes of today’s pensioners.
We acted immediately to introduce the triple guarantee, meaning that someone retiring today on a full basic state pension will receive £15,000 more over their retirement by way of basic State Pension than they would have done under the old prices link.
We also committed to a permanent increase in Cold Weather Payments.
And we protected other key areas of support for pensioners, including free eye tests, free prescription charges and free TV licenses for the over 75s.
Having put incomes on a firmer footing, we moved to secure older people’s rights to work.
We are phasing out the Default Retirement Age from April of this year, despite concerns from some in the business community.
I believe this sends out a message that age discrimination has no place in modern British society.
I’m proud to say that we fought for these reforms against the backdrop of the worst fiscal position in living memory.
Our public debt alone is the equivalent of over £14,000 for every man, woman and child.
We’ve had to take tough decisions, but I believe that we have managed to protect the areas that matter most to today’s pensioners.
And I should use this opportunity to pay tribute to my colleague Steve Webb, Minister of State for Pensions, whose work since we entered office has been nothing short of remarkable.
It is a real privilege to work closely with someone who is so passionate about pensions and the issues facing older people in this country.
Of course we cannot be complacent.
There is always more to be done to help the poorest in retirement.
However, having worked to put incomes and rights for today’s pensioners on a firmer footing, we must also turn our focus to the next generation.
The challenge is immense.
A diminishing group of younger workers will have to work longer just to help fund the pension promises made to their parents, even before they invest in their own future.
The comparison with previous generations is stark.
When the State Pension Age was set back in 1926 there were around nine people of working age for every pensioner.
Today, there are only three people working for every pensioner, and by the second half of the century it will be down to nearly two.
For the first time in more than 30 years our children are expected to have retirement incomes which will fail to keep up with average earnings in the rest of the economy – despite our decision to restore the earnings link in the State Pension.
This is our children’s legacy – unfunded obligations and insecurity in private pensions.
Few will be able to look forward to a guaranteed income in retirement.
The numbers saving in Defined Benefit pensions in the private sector have more than halved in the last 20 years and have been on an inexorable downward trend.
There are currently only one million active members in open private sector Defined Benefit schemes, down from five million members in the mid 1990s.
But, because the numbers in Defined Contribution schemes have so far failed to take up the slack, fewer people than ever are saving in any form of scheme at all.
Indeed, less than half of the entire working age population is currently saving in a pension.
Even those who are saving face an uncertain retirement.
This is because contribution rates are weak, and annuity rates have fallen significantly since the late 1990s.
They can only be expected to fall further as life expectancy increases.
And the next generation will not be able to rely on bricks and mortar in the way their parents have been able to.
While 70% of today’s pensioners own their homes outright, their grandchildren are struggling to even get a foot on the housing ladder.
The average cost of property for a first-time buyer has increased by 40% in real terms in the last decade.
It’s no wonder our children are increasingly cynical about saving.
And they won’t be able to afford a stable and secure retirement unless we do something radically different.
Acting in the long term
So it is absolutely imperative that we take steps to secure the position of the next generation.
It would be easy to shirk our responsibilities.
But what will we say to the next generation if we don’t act now?
That it was too difficult?
That there were no votes in securing our childrens’ pensions?
That attitude must be consigned to history.
Otherwise we will bear responsibility for the burdens on our children.
Surely we have to act now to secure their future?
Parallels to welfare reform
But this challenge isn’t unique.
After all, this is, in many ways, the challenge that confronted us when we looked at welfare reform.
We could have continued with the short term option – increasing child welfare payments at budget after budget and triumphantly announcing the number of children we had pushed just over the poverty line.
But we knew that if we were going to make a real difference to people’s lives – transforming them rather than just maintaining them – we had to tackle the problem at its roots.
In welfare this meant simplification of the system.
And it meant getting rid of the perverse incentives which rewarded the wrong choices and meant that work didn’t pay.
The challenge in pensions is exactly the same.
We have to fundamentally simplify the system.
And we have to make it crystal clear to young savers that it pays to save.
We have made a start by pushing ahead with plans for auto-enrolment, building on the groundwork laid by Lord Turner back in 2005.
By providing a low-cost and dependable pension scheme for those who wouldn’t otherwise put money aside, we can start to push up savings rates and move away from a culture of debt.
This should ensure that between five and eight million people start saving or save more, and it will enable us to start the process of rebuilding confidence in private pensions.
It will also challenge other providers to look hard at their service charges, at the way they communicate information to their customers, and at the quality of the product they are providing.
Auto-enrolment is as much about cultural change as improving saving rates.
All of those who have played such an important role in the development of the existing UK pension system have to recognise that the world is changing, and they need to start working in the interests of the next generation.
They need to get their shoulders to the wheel and help make this new retirement system work.
But this alone will not be enough.
Auto-enrolment cannot solve the savings challenge on its own, and we have to be prepared to look at the other side of the equation.
We now have to look at the State Pension.
For the two go together, and what we do in one affects the other.
Just like the chaos in the benefit system, piecemeal changes to state pensions have turned what started as a relatively simple contributory system into a complex mess.
S2P, Serps, graduated retirement pension, the additional state pension – these are names designed to strike fear into the heart of a young saver and confusion in almost everyone else.
The system is so complex that most people have no idea what any of this will mean for them now and in their retirement.
And for those on the lowest incomes, the complex rules governing Pension Credit have been a barrier to claiming the money they so dearly need.
That is not to mention the demeaning nature of the means-test, which we know puts people off from making a claim, as well as acting as a disincentive to save.
Too many people on low incomes who do the right thing in saving for their retirement find those savings clawed back through means-testing.
When they reach pension age they discover that while they have foregone spending opportunities and made plans to be self-sufficient, others, who haven’t saved a penny, are able to get exactly the same income as them by claiming Pension Credit.
Think about how this could affect auto-enrolment – low income savers will rightly be frustrated if they reach retirement and find they have paid in for nothing.
Confused and uncertain, they may never even get that far, choosing instead to opt-out of saving altogether.
We have to change this.
We have to send out a clear message across both the welfare and pension systems – you will be better off in work than on benefits, and you will be better off in retirement if you save.
I seek a debate on the next generation of pension reform.
Having acted immediately to protect the incomes of today’s pensioners, we have to turn our focus towards the next generation – tomorrow’s pensioners – and start working hard to secure their future.
I want a State Pensions system fit for a 21st Century welfare system, which is easy to understand and rewards those who do the right thing and save.
My Department has been working closely with colleagues at the Treasury on options for reform.
As the Chancellor made clear late last year, he is keen to look at options for simplifying the pension system, and that is precisely what we are doing.
We have worked together on this and he has been seized of the importance of this project from the start.
The Chancellor is determined to lift the burden of debt from the shoulders of our children and our children’s children, and to enable them to pursue, at the very least, the opportunities we have been fortunate enough to avail ourselves of.
Surely we cannot let this opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past pass us by?
That is why we seek your support to get this right.
Too often we forget that this isn’t just a system for those who are currently retired, but also for those who will need it in the years ahead.
That is why, together, we must make it work not just now but down through the generations, and make sure we leave hope and stability for those generations to come.
Below is the text of the statement made by Iain Duncan Smith, the then Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003.
The House and the whole country rightly recognise that we are soon likely to be at war. It is a solemn moment in the life of our nation, and our first thoughts and prayers today must be with our troops and their families as they prepare for action. The Opposition recognise the heavy responsibility that the Prime Minister and the Government have to bear. I remind the House that the Prime Minister’s decision comes at the end of 12 years of what was too often indecision by the international community.
I make it clear from the outset that the official Opposition will vote tonight in the same Lobby as the Government. In saying that, I recognise that there are honestly felt and genuinely carried differences of view on both sides of the House about further military action in Iraq. I respect those unreservedly, wherever they are held, and I recognise that they reflect strong differences of view that are felt throughout the country. However, given the differences and the difficulties that they have posed for the Government in general and for the Prime Minister in particular, I say frankly to the House that the official Opposition could somehow have sought to manoeuvre themselves into the No Lobby tonight. After all, we have argued consistently that Ministers have failed to convince the public of their case, and we have sought to hold the Government to account in the House for their mistakes. In particular, we have also pointed out the failures with regard to the humanitarian consequences of war. However, I believe that when the Government do the right thing by the British people, they deserve the support of the House, and particularly of the main Opposition.
Certain issues need to be taken head-on today. The idea that this action would become a recruiting sergeant for others to come to the colours of those who are “anti” any nation in the west is, I am afraid, nonsense. The biggest recruiting sergeant of all has been indecision, and the failure to take action to show that such resolve matters.
There are well-held views that I have respect for, but as I said, we could have sought a way to do something that would have damaged the Government. I understand that the Liberal Democrats will do just that tonight. They are, of course, entitled to their view, but I simply say this to them. One can argue that further military action by our armed forces would be illegal, or that it should be supported. But a political party surely cannot simultaneously argue that military action is illegal but should none the less be supported somehow. Yet that, we gather, is what the Liberal Democrats plan to put as their main case tonight. What is clear is that one cannot have it both ways; one has to make a decision and lead.
We are voting tonight in support of the motion not because we endorse every detail of the Prime Minister’s handling of the matter, certainly not because we are eager for conflict—as the House knows, I served in the armed forces, and I have some knowledge of the horror of the aftermath of conflict—and not just because we want to show our support for our troops. That said, I believe firmly that, as the Prime Minister says, they are entitled to our full support today.
Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who tortures and murders his own people. He poses a threat to the safety and stability of the middle east, and he is in complete breach of his obligations to the United Nations and to the international community. However, the main reason why we will be voting for the motion is that it is in the British national interest. Saddam Hussein has the means, the mentality and the motive to pose a direct threat to our national security. That is why we will be voting tonight to do the right thing by our troops and the British people.
Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, at Business for Britain on 7th April 2014.
Thank you for coming to Pimlico today, and my thanks both to Pimlico Plumbers and Business for Britain for their efforts in making this event happen.
It is a pleasure to be here…at the site of a real British success story.
What better setting to discuss the turnaround in our country’s fortunes, as the Chancellor set out last week.
The recession slashed 7.2% off our economy and cost 750,000 people their jobs.
Following the crash we heard gloomy forecasts of a million jobs disappearing from the private sector, mass unemployment, lost generations…
…yet they could not have proved more wrong.
Britain’s economic recovery is established and taking hold faster than forecast – and nowhere are the signs of this recovery clearer than in our labour market.
Whilst others have questioned and puzzled over the record employment Britain is now seeing…
… as the Work and Pensions Secretary, I have long believed that the strength of our labour market would both drive Britain’s economic recovery, and increase as a result.
Let me explain.
The logic behind that belief is twofold – you will know most about the first step, and the second is my area of responsibility – but the two are linked.
First, this government created the conditions for growth, and gave businesses the freedom and confidence to create jobs… which is precisely what you have done.
Second, we drove a programme of welfare reform where every change was designed to get Britain back to work…
… giving people previously left to languish out of work, the skills and the incentive to take those jobs.
In doing so, welfare reform is, at its heart, about breaking the chains of dependency and supporting people to achieve their potential…
… giving them the freedom to secure a better future for themselves and their families.
Getting Britain working
In reforming a broken welfare system, I have had one overriding intention – to get Britain working again.
Now, the results are clear to see:
we have more people working in the private sector than ever before, up over 1.7 million since the election
we have record employment – more than half a million higher than its pre-recession peak
and – less known – we have falling numbers of people absent from the labour market… falling long-term unemployment… and, perhaps most importantly of all, falling numbers of workless households
It is easy to get lost in what feel like abstract numbers – so let me make clear what this means.
The increase in employment is equivalent to the cities of Manchester, Liverpool and Bolton now all in work.
It means individuals in jobs, really feeling the impact of the recovery.
Families able to feel secure about their futures…
…. breadwinners able to feel proud that they can support them…
… and children with that all-important role model to look up to, offering hope and self-worth, with aspirations for their own future transformed.
At last year’s Budget, and so too this year, the Office for Budget Responsibility has revised its estimates for employment up and unemployment down.
Yet even still, the labour market has continued to outperform the forecasts.
In looking to explain this trend, there is much to be said of the labour market reforms that took place in the UK many decades ago – freeing up the labour market and ensuring flexibility, even to this day…
… and particularly in contrast to rigid and uncompetitive markets that continue to plague some of our neighbours in Europe.
Yet, I believe there is even more to this recovery than economics alone – which is why, to my mind, the latest labour market statistics are not a source of confusion – but make logical sense.
On entering office in 2010, I was not only determined to get Britain working, but more than that: I was determined that economic reform should be matched by social reform…
… taking action, not only to rebuild our finances, but also to restore our nation’s greatest asset – that is, the British people.
Too often in the past, when Britain recovered from an economic crash, the poorest were left behind.
I was determined that would not happen here.
When I arrived in office, too many people had been left to languish in dependency…
… not only an unsustainable drain on productivity… but a tragic waste of human potential.
Under the last government, millions of people were stuck on out of work benefits – a million for a decade or more.
Unemployment had risen by half a million, and youth unemployment by nearly half.
1 in 5 households was workless, and the number where no one had ever worked doubled – from 184,000 to over 350,000 – rising even during the boom years.
Essentially, I found a persistent and sizeable group of people who were inactive – having dropped out of the labour force altogether – neither in work nor looking for work, even when jobs were available.
With so many trapped on the sidelines, British business looked to migrant workers to fill the jobs which British people didn’t want or couldn’t get.
In just 5 years between 2005 and 2010, the number of British people in jobs fell by over 300,000, while the number of foreigners in British jobs soared by more than 650,000.
Clearly there is a powerful argument to be made here about immigration – but actually, this an issue of supply and demand, as much as it is about borders.
That is why when British business found British people were unwilling or unable to work in the UK, they quickly looked elsewhere.
Taxpayers paid a financial cost for rising welfare payments, and society paid the cost as well – with too many of our own fellow citizens falling into dependency, hopelessness, and despair.
No one knows this better than employers – like yourselves – those wanting to expand but struggling to find workers to fill their vacancies… or whose staff turn down extra hours for fear of losing their benefits.
But even apart from being bad business, it was also damaging people’s lives…
… destroying the ethos of a whole section of our society, left behind in workless households where no one knew what it was to hold down a job.
In too many cases, it was a combination of the welfare system trapping people in dependency and removing the drive to go to work… and the open door immigration policy which meant they were so easily replaced by foreign workers coming in.
Surely common sense should tell us that Britain cannot run a modern flexible economy, if at the same time, so many of the people who service that economy are trapped in dependency on the state, unwilling or unable to play a productive part.
That is why I knew that welfare reform needed to play a vital part in Britain’s recovery: a stable economy matched by a strong society where people are ready and capable of work.
Unlike in the past, when economic recovery meant all too little for those furthest from the labour force…
… now, the evidence of a linked social and economic recovery is clear to see – in an improving jobs market where no one is being left behind.
This is the greatest marker of how successful our welfare reforms have been:
inactivity is at its lowest on record excluding those in education, down by nearly half a million since 2010… driven by falling numbers claiming inactive benefits – down by 350,000, and falling in every single local area of Britain
there are a lower proportion of workless households than at any time on record, down 450,000 since 2010
and we are now seeing promising signs that the trend of more migrant than British workers gaining jobs is being reversed…
… with the latest data showing that of the rise in employment over the past year, nearly 90% went to UK nationals
As the economy improves, this is where the real effect of our reforms is felt: British people reengaging with the workforce and regaining the opportunity to access the jobs being created…
… ensuring everyone who is able can play a part and realise their potential.
But for me, the drive and the energy has been about ensuring that behind each of these statistics, the recovery reaches those previously at the very bottom of the career ladder.
For, in every case, these statistics represent massive life change for individuals and families.
For the young person: once with bleak prospects, but now one of a growing proportion in employment or education… who has their foot on the first rung of the ladder, able to move onwards and upwards.
For the lone parent – more of whom are now in work than ever before – which we know is the best route to lift their family out of poverty… with children in workless families 3 times more likely to be poor.
For the long-term unemployed, and those for whom worklessness had become a way of life – too often written off in the past, but now receiving meaningful help to overcome the problems that hold them back.
Already, the number of people stuck on Jobseeker’s Allowance for a year or more is down by almost a fifth…
… and the Work Programme is succeeding, helping those further from the labour market into work.
Half a million people have started a job so far – including 22,000 people who might once have been left unseen on sickness benefits, cut off from any real support – and outcomes are ever improving.
Just think of the transformation for someone whose life was one of dependency on the state, but who now has hope for a life they are able to shape for themselves and their family.
Instead of being trapped in that vicious circle – be it crime, addiction, debt – now we are seeing individuals on a journey from dependency to independence…
… regaining control over their own lives and security for their futures.
Britain will only be great again if all in our society – every disadvantaged group, every deprived community – are part of our nation’s prosperity.
Since coming into office, it has been this belief that has underpinned my programme of welfare reform, arguably the most significant in a generation.
Across all these changes… every day, every policy decision, every visit, every instruction… my purpose has been to get Britain working…
…. restoring the incentive for British people to get back to work and removing the barriers in their way…
… in doing so, transforming the lives of those locked out of the labour market for too long, so that we all benefit as one nation from Britain’s recovery.
Yet powerful as that may be, alone it will not be enough. We also need to go further back and intervene before families fall into dependency and disadvantage in the first place.
For that process of life change to be as effective as possible, it must start at the first opportunity – which is why I am getting involved earlier than ever before…
… working alongside my colleague Michael Gove, who is leading the vital changes in the education system… to prevent the next generation of young people from facing entrenched problems.
I set up the Innovation Fund – a £30 million investment – which catalyses cutting-edge programmes to improve the employment prospects of our most disadvantaged young people… intervening as early as 14 to avoid wasted life chances.
Such has been our success in testing new schemes, that now we’re taking a pioneering approach into the jobcentres too…
… ending a situation where, for too long, jobcentres have been unable to support young people who fall out of school at too young an age.
For 16 and 17 year olds – locked out of both the classroom and the jobcentre – the wage scar caused by being out of work can damage their prospects for years to come.
Now, by opening the jobcentre door to these teenagers, and trialling what works best in helping them, we can do a huge amount to secure their futures.
Support into work
When it comes to my department’s employment programmes, I am using every tool at my disposal to get people into work.
But – equally deliberate – from start to finish, that is the purpose of welfare reform as well.
That is why:
I have fought so hard to create and introduce Universal Credit, now running in England, Scotland and Wales, and set to roll out further across the north west.
The old benefit system too often rewarded the decision to turn down work and for too many, the decision to move into work left them worse off. For too many, to take a job was not seen as the logical choice.
Universal Credit is the great reform that changes this: ensuring that at each and every hour, work always pays.
Already, as we roll it out, the behavioural effect of this reform is striking, with those on Universal Credit spending twice as long looking for work, better understanding their requirements, and working harder to meet them.
That is why:
We took the decision to invest in childcare in Universal Credit, so that families could take that job and earn their way out of poverty.
That is why:
We have capped benefits at average earnings and restricted housing benefit, so that families on benefits face the same choices about where they live and what they can afford as everyone else.
This is putting an end to the something for nothing culture that too often meant work wasn’t worthwhile – meaning welfare became a lifestyle choice.
And if these are the reforms which restore strong work incentives, together with raising the threshold so people now pay no tax on their first £10,000 of income…
… our conditionality system is designed to send a clear message that we expect every effort to be made to find and take work.
We have set clear requirements in return for state support, and are making sure that if someone fails to meet their responsibilities, they face the consequences…
… getting the balance right again in the welfare system, just as for those in work…
… and ensuring fairness for the taxpayers who fund it.
Conditionality and sanctions
Our reforms make this deal unequivocal.
We are requiring everyone to sign up to a Claimant Commitment as a condition of entitlement to benefit – it is deliberately set to mimic a contract of employment… setting out what individuals must do in return for state support.
From this month, we are going further still – the final nail in the coffin for the old ‘something for nothing’ culture.
A more stringent regime will require claimants to do all they can to get work-ready even before they sign on – taking the initiative and showing they are serious about finding work…
… as well as attending the jobcentre weekly, rather than fortnightly, if they need more intensive supervision.
This will be backed up by increased support – no one will be overlooked or left without help… but we are saying to everyone that there is no longer any opt-out from a tough jobseeking regime.
If individuals fail to meet their requirements without good reason, they must face the consequences… with a robust set of sanctions that mean for the most serious offences, they lose their benefit for 3 months for the first time, 6 months for the second and 3 years for the third.
Yes, it is challenging and there is still much more to do if we are to finish the job… but already, it is working… which is why I am baffled when commentators cannot understand the jobs figures.
In response to those who were puzzled by such a strong fall in unemployment, it was the Bank of England which said:
“a tightening in the eligibility requirements for some state benefits might also have led to an intensification of job search.”
In other words, it is this process – everything we have been doing, every reform we have implemented – which has been about getting Britain working.
Access to benefits
Yet in striking the right balance between give and take in Britain’s welfare system, there is still one final issue we must confront.
We have ended the something-for-nothing culture for those already living in Britain…
… and, equally, I believe it is only fair and reasonable to say to those coming into our country: if you haven’t made a contribution, you shouldn’t be able to claim benefits.
So we have also had to reform the way our benefits system works for those, arriving on our shores.
Here too the same principle of fairness must apply.
That is why for those migrants who do come here, we’re ensuing our benefit system is no longer an easy target for abuse…
… limiting access, to prevent migrants from taking unfair advantage of our system by accessing benefits as soon as they arrive.
We have introduced a tougher test that stops individuals from getting jobseeking benefits until they have been living in the UK for at least 3 months…
… ending that entitlement after 6 months unless the person has genuine prospects of finding work.
Those prospects are severely hampered if someone can’t speak English – so, from this month, jobseekers who struggle to speak English will now be mandated to English language courses, and their benefits stopped if they don’t attend.
Banning new migrants from claiming Housing Benefit altogether, we have also clamped down on those trying to manipulate the tax credits system…
… for too long a source of income for those in bogus jobs or falsely declaring themselves self-employed.
Now, until those who come here start paying National Insurance contributions, individuals must prove to us that they are working in a real job.
And we want to go further still – the right to say to migrants that we require a much longer record of commitment before you get benefits…
… restoring the principle that nation states run their own national welfare arrangements…
… something the UK is not prepared to change.
Together, these new immigration and benefit checks will clamp down on those trying to exploit the system…
… ensuring that Britain’s growing economy and dynamic jobs market deliver for those who work hard and play by the rules.
As we reshape our economy, and revitalise the entrepreneurial spirit that our great nation has always shown, we cannot shut the door on the rest of the world.
But those who come here should know that we will not compromise when it comes to protecting the principles on which our welfare state is based.
We must do right by those born here, living here and working here, whose contributions fund the system. That is only fair.
It was just last week that the Chancellor talked about a commitment to fight for full employment in Britain – as he put it, to have the highest employment rate in the G7.
And he is right.
We must no longer limit our ambition, nor avoid facing up to a challenge that would improve so many lives.
Indeed, it is my belief that this should be, perhaps, the most vital aim: with help and support, everyone contributing as far as they possibly can.
We’ve done a lot already, and will continue to make progress…
… our long-term economic plan ensuring we help businesses like yours to create new jobs and generate opportunities.
Yet we must go further still, following the recession, to seize a real opportunity: ensuring that our social settlement offers all in our society a fair chance of securing those jobs.
Progression in work
For too long, the prevailing attitude was that a bit more money paid out to those on the sidelines would make their lives a bit better.
Yet the reality is that whilst this approach might have pacified the problem in the short-term…
… the long-term consequence has been a state of even more entrenched dependency.
Given the chance, I believe people will want to make the most of their talents – but instead, what this did was trap them, with little opportunity to take control of their own lives.
Locked into dependency on the state, people’s talents were too often wasted…
… either in trying to get more money from the state…
… or in dodging the state, as individuals were pushed into the shadow economy or a dark world of petty crime.
Still now, some commentators fail to recognise the damage that worklessness and dependency can inflict on people’s life chances and aspirations…
… persisting with the same misguided thinking, through an argument that denigrates those who are taking the first steps into the labour market
The way our opponents would seem to have it, people are better off in dependency than taking a part time or entry level job.
It is hardly an argument many of those on Jobseeker’s Allowance would recognise, desperate to get a job and start earning their way in the world.
Nor does it reflect the dynamic nature of our labour market.
The way I see it, securing a job is the first step – the beginning of a process in which people are able to take control of their futures.
Make the first step too difficult or too high, and a person may never get there.
But help them to take that step, make that positive move, and the rest is in their hands.
Our purpose must be to release people from the trap and so that they can break free from dependency, participating equally as our economy improves.
That is the aim of the reforms we are pushing through.
It is hardly a small undertaking – for it requires a huge cultural change, both within government and for those caught in the system for so long.
And it is not easy, as attacks from all quarters seek to misrepresent what we are doing…
…. angling for a return to failed and expensive policies, when welfare was about how much money was paid out to people, rather than how their lives were improved.
Yet I believe this task is vital – and without it, we risk Britain slipping behind, as growing levels of dependency hinder our progress.
Whilst our critics persist in arguing that a minimum wage job is stepping into a hole…
… I believe, quite the contrary, that it can be the first step on the ladder to an independent life.
Below is the text of the speech made by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, to the Capita Welfare Reform Conference in Edinburgh on 27th March 2013.
It is a pleasure to be here today.
All across the UK, few issues provoke as much debate as welfare reform.
But then few issues matter as much to our society.
Our welfare state is not simply a question of institutions and systems.
It is, and always has been, about people…
… providing effective support to the most vulnerable, and helping those who have fallen on hard times to get back on their feet.
This Government is on the side of the welfare system – we believe in the values that created it and recognise that these are common values across the UK.
We all benefit from having the welfare safety net to fall back on.
But equally, when welfare doesn’t work, we all feel it.
We feel the social costs:
The four and a half million people of working age, trapped on out of work benefits – 450,000 of them in Scotland.
The 1 million people on sickness benefits, unseen for a decade or more.
The 3.7 million workless households, 367,000 in Scotland…
… and the 1.8 million children living in households where no one works – 145,000 in Scotland alone.
Across the UK, in communities blighted by disadvantage, as a whole section of people are cut adrift from the rest of society…
… what we are left with is a tragic waste of human potential and lost opportunity.
As well as the social cost, we must also acknowledge that this entrenched dependency weighs heavily on the public purse.
Welfare is vitally important, but the reality is that it comes at a cost.
Across the UK, we spend over £200 billion annually on benefits, tax credits and pensions…
… an amount that increased by 60% under the last Government, from £122 billion to £197 billion, some £3,000 a year for every household in Britain by 2010.
The rising cost of paying benefits was one significant reason for the increase in the UK’s deficit – a hole in the government finances worth 11.2% of GDP in 2009/10, unprecedented in peace-time.
This Government has taken hard decisions on tax and spending in order to piece our economy back together.
If there were ever to be an independent Scotland, that new Scottish state would not be immune from similarly hard and difficult choices.
The Scottish Government’s own independent Fiscal Commission talks of the challenge of “ensuring long-term fiscal sustainability”…
… indeed, the UK Government’s commitment to restoring a strong economy is not separate from our commitment to a resilient welfare state.
We need only look to Ireland to see how far the two are linked.
Back in 2008, Scotland’s First Minister spoke about Scotland drawing a lesson from Ireland, “the Celtic Tiger economy”.
So too now… only the lesson we learn is of the vital measures Ireland has had to take as an independent nation, in order to stabilise their banks and maintain competitiveness.
In the face of the global financial crisis and the country’s plummeting GDP, Ireland’s leaders have had to implement difficult public expenditure cuts.
Doing so has hit benefit recipients hard…
… with social welfare cuts of around £680 million for the year 2010, and £780 million for the year 2011.
For a workless couple with two children, this equates to an actual cut in income of around £900 a year.
For a childless couple, where one person is caring for a spouse in receipt of Disability Allowance, it is a cut of £840 a year.
And it is not only Ireland having to make these cuts. Other countries – Spain, Portugal – have found themselves having to do the same.
In contrast… with a broader and more diverse economy, the UK has been better able to cope with shocks such as the Eurozone crisis and volatile oil revenues… whilst keeping our welfare safety net in place.
Across the UK – contrary to the headlines – all those on benefits will still see cash increases in every year of this Parliament.
A sound economy and a properly structured social settlement go side by side.
And when it comes to welfare, the point is not just how much we spend…
….but how we spend it.
Instead of big spending to grab media headlines and placate interest groups in the short term, I believe that for every pound we spend, we should be asking – how does it promote lasting and positive life change?
We need to look at the results that welfare spending is having in terms of transforming people’s lives…
… investing in a dynamic system that promotes work as the best route out of poverty, setting people on course to an independent life beyond the state.
That is what our welfare changes are all about.
First, the benefit cap – removing perhaps the greatest catch in the current system… the fact that for too many people, it pays more to languish on benefits than to enter work.
We are exempting the most vulnerable, including war widows and those with severe disabilities.
But by capping the total amount others can receive in benefits, we restore the incentive for them to move back to work…
… restoring fairness to those who work hard and pay into the system in the process.
As we are move towards implementing this change, we are already seeing signs of this positive behavioural change.
Much has also been said about the impact of our Housing reforms in Scotland, with claims that we are cutting the Housing Benefit bill.
But here are the facts:
Housing Benefit spending doubled in the last decade from £11 billion to £23 billion, our reforms are starting arrest that rate of growth.
House building under the last Government had fallen to its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s, down by almost a third, with the fall in Scotland even worse than that in England.
There are 188,000 households on waiting lists in Scotland, and overcrowding stands at 60,000…
… meanwhile 80,000 homes in the social rented sector are under-occupied, with taxpayers having to subsidise those spare bedrooms.
So the real story here is not the impact of our reforms, but the failure of past housing policy both North and South of the border.
I am not saying that ending the spare room subsidy will not present some difficult cases, which is why we have allocated an additional £370 million in Discretionary Housing Payments to help manage the transition… £10 million to Scottish local authorities in the first year.
But let me remind you that tenants on Housing Benefit in the private sector do not receive payments for spare bedrooms – it is only fair to taxpayers to bring the social sector back into line.
As well as ending the snags that have too often trapped people in dependency, we are also investing in dynamic reforms to get people into work.
From the Work Programme – paying providers by the results they achieve in supporting those further from the labour market into work and keeping them there…
… to Universal Jobmatch – an online jobsearching and matching service which is already revolutionising how claimants find work, with over 2 million already registered…
… and the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment, focusing support on those who need it most and helping those on DLA and PIP to gain the independence they need through entering work…
… our purpose is to target support where it will make the greatest difference, giving people the tools they need to regain control of their own lives.
Perhaps the most important single change will be the introduction of Universal Credit – starting with the Pathfinder in April, followed by a progressive national roll-out from October…
… making work pay, at each and every hour.
In Scotland, around 300,000 households will have higher entitlements, gaining £162 more per month on average…
… with around 80% of gainers are in the bottom 40% of the income distribution, meaning support is better targeted at those most in need.
Together with significant increases in the Personal Tax Allowance, now rising to £10,000 by 2014…
… benefiting 2.2 million people in Scotland and lifting 224,000 out of tax altogether…
… this is what dynamic investment is all about – making sure that those who take positive steps towards financial independence see the rewards.
But the changes we are putting in place are not just about improving the prospects of workers today.
They are also about securing their position in future, as they enter retirement.
We are already successfully rolling out auto enrolment – helping up to 9 million people into a workplace pension scheme to make saving the norm.
But auto-enrolment won’t work unless it pays to save – which is what the Single Tier pension is all about.
For too long, the UK has spent rather than saved, one of the main reasons we see our economy in so much debt.
Whilst restoring our economy today, it is even more important that we put the UK on a sound financial footing going forward.
As the Chancellor announced in last week’s Budget, the Single Tier will be introduced from April 2016 – meaning after 60 years of tinkering with a more and more complicated pensions system which penalised savers…
… we can finally deliver the vital reforms that the UK needs.
You see, Universal Credit and the single tier are two sides of the same coin – ensuring that it pays, first to work and then it pays to save…
… delivering a fairer social settlement, underpinned by sound public finances.
An independent Scotland
It is my belief that we are better placed to achieve this, doing so together.
All across the UK, our ability to support those in retirement is something we should be proud of.
By shouldering the responsibility on broad shoulders, even in difficult times the Coalition has been able to pledge its support to UK pensioners now…
… introducing the Triple Lock to protect their incomes against inflation, and guaranteeing universal pensioner benefits for all…
… and to improve pension provision for the future – through reforms such as auto-enrolment and the Single Tier.
Were Scotland to leave the UK for good, an independent’s Scotland’s pension provision would no longer be a shared obligation.
Let me quote Finance Minister John Swinney, on the issue of future pensions:
“at present HM Treasury and DWP absorb the risk…in future we will assume responsibility for managing such pressure. This will imply more volatility in overall spending than at present”.
Not my words – the words of John Swinney, who has apparently already warned his Cabinet colleagues in a private note about the risks of underwriting Scottish state pensions.
So John Swinney and the SNP already admit that it is the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom that underpin the fundamental solidarity of our pensions system.
“Volatility” and “responsibility” – two simple words but what lies behind them is of enormous importance.
People in Scotland thinking of their grandparents and parents, or indeed looking ahead to their own retirement, have no doubt been wondering what such casual references mean.
As a UK Secretary of State who knows only too well the cost of paying pensions… let me tell you what it means.
Ultimately, all of the UK faces a challenge to pay for future pensions.
But Scotland has an older demographic than the rest of the UK AND an old age support ratio predicted to deteriorate faster over the next 50 years.
Currently, there are 32 working age people supporting every 10 pensioners both in Scotland and the UK overall.
By 2060 this is expected to fall to 26 working age people in the UK.
Scotland, however, sees a bigger fall, to just 23 working age people per 10 pensioners… which in turn comes at a much greater cost.
Overall, the proportion of UK GDP spent on pensioner benefits is projected to rise by 1.8 percentage points over the next 50 years – from 6.9% to 8.7%.
But in Scotland the increase is much worse – a 2.8 percentage point rise from 7.2% to 10.0% – costing an extra £3.6bn in today’s terms… and roughly an enormous 20% increase in Scotland’s overall welfare spending.
For the benefit of the Scottish people worried about “more volatility”, let me put that another way:
In today’s terms, in 50 years time, it will cost each working age person in the UK £700 more per year to pay for state pensions and other pensioner benefits than it does now.
In Scotland, the position is much worse – it will cost another £1,100 per working age person to pay for pensioner benefits.
So the SNP have some serious questions to answer.
First and foremost, how would they pay for this?
Extra money would be required to meet Scotland’s demographic pressures.
Whilst both oil and gas revenues are projected to decrease significantly over the next decade, and remain minimal thereafter.
So having laid out the facts, the question mark remains:
Higher taxes? More borrowing?
Or in the minds of Scottish people: “if Scotland goes it alone, will I pay more… or will the state pay more?”
The question of future pensions provision is a legitimate one… and in the context of welfare, I believe the biggest single question that those seeking independence must answer.
United… we are in a stronger position to respond these challenges…
… sharing both the resources and risks…
… able to sustain welfare spending on the back of broader shoulders.
The great strength of the UK’s welfare system is that help goes to the parts of the country where the need is greatest.
Today, for some benefits, that may be in parts of Scotland.
Tomorrow, as circumstances change, it may be somewhere else.
Wherever, the commitment is the same – a strength of the UK that is widely recognised in Scotland.
So when people here come to cast their vote in the referendum, I hope they will vote for a Scotland that continues to play a central role in our United Kingdom….
… and one that would not allow a disproportionate burden to fall on people working in Scotland to pay for the increasing cost of pensions.
Pulling together when times are tough.
Working together, so that everyone has the chance to play a full part in our shared future.
Together, united in a common purpose for the common good…
… we can be sure that there is a secure welfare safety net in place now…