Iain Duncan Smith – 2012 Conservative Party Conference Speech

Ian  Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith

Below is the text of the speech made by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, at the 2012 Conservative Party Conference on 8th October 2012.

At the last election the Labour Government left us the largest deficit the UK has seen since the Second World War.

£120 million a day spent on interest. And £1.5 trillion, owed in personal debt – the size of the whole UK economy.

The Labour Government, spending and borrowing, too ready to leave our children to foot the bill.

They have learnt nothing……


This culture of irresponsible spending had its roots in Britain’s welfare system:

In government, Labour hiked spending by a massive 60%, rising even before the recession hit.

Worse, in 2010, just before the election, in one year, Labour spent £90 billion on working age welfare – the same as the entire education budget for that very same year.

Let me give you an example of this waste. Just 120,000 of the most troubled and difficult families cost us some £9 billion per year in special interventions, from an array of agencies – from health visitors to the criminal justice system.

Imagine that, £75,000 per family with nothing done to transform their destructive lifestyles.

To put this in perspective, by 2010 this increase in welfare spending cost every household in Britain an extra £3,000 a year in tax.

And exactly what did we get in return for spending such vast sums of money?

A complex system of over 30 different benefits

Chaotic in work supplements, some paid at 16 hours, some 24 and some at 30, with benefits withdrawn at different rates – some at 40%, some at 65%, some at 100%, some net, some gross…

You’d need to be a clever banker just to work it out…. well ok; you’d need at least to be clever.

Those we should have been helping:

The strivers, the tryers;

The families trying to do the right thing;

The people struggling to work, like lone parents desperate to ensure they bring their children up in a working household.

Too many of them lost most of every £ they earned in work.

And under Labour, income inequality, that is the gap between the incomes of the rich and poor, was the largest in modern times.

I ask you, what kind of message does that send out?

I will tell you – that it’s not worth working – that it’s not worth trying – that you’re better off playing the system and taking the money.


Small wonder then that Labour left us a growing army of those who don’t work.

5 million people on out of work benefits after the recession – 1 million of them for a decade or more.

1 in every 5 households in the UK with no one working……think about this – in the Britain left by Labour, almost 2 million children were living in workless households – proportionately higher than almost any other country in the EU.

Youth unemployment at a record high.

Yet half of the new jobs being created were being taken by foreign nationals.

Labour attacked marriage but they also penalised couples staying together on welfare – Families on benefits were better off apart. As a result, too many children now grow up without their fathers. And 1 and a half million children grow up with parents addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Small wonder street gangs were rampant in too many of our towns and cities

We know Ed Miliband now says he believes in one nation….but let me remind him…

Labour left a nation divided between those who work hard and pay their taxes and those locked into costly welfare dependency

No, that Mr Miliband is what I call Two Nations, not one nation.

Oh no, you can re-position Labour all you like but….

You won’t solve an economic problem by denying it,

You can’t heal a nation by attacking parts of it,

And if you follow the Unions, you will never lead.

In Government, we know that changing this bitter legacy requires a complete cultural shift.

The end of the something for nothing attitude…

And, the beginning of a journey back from dependence to independence.


For those people who the last government left behind – such as the long term unemployed, we have created the Work Programme.

Harnessing the knowledge, skills and experience of voluntary and private sector organisations it will support some 3.3 million claimants.

And unlike the expensive failures of the last government, providers are paid only for the results they achieve paid, not just to get people into work but to keep them there.

When we introduced this great programme, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it…


Young unemployed people told me time and time again that their biggest barrier to employment is that no employer will hire them without experience, but they need work in order to get the experience.

So we created the Work experience programme, helping young people to take up to 2 months with an employer, gaining vital new skills, and while they are doing this we’re letting them keep their benefits.

This programme has been an incredible success.

Half those taking part are off benefit within 21 weeks of starting.

And we’ve even added the Youth Contract, a subsidy if they employ the young person or give them an apprenticeship.

But the Unions, with Labour support have attacked the programme. They are trying to frighten off businesses, even going as far as calling it “slave labour.”

Just how out of touch they are? Labour and the Unions would rather have the young people of this country living off state handouts, instead of being employed.

… yet again…

When we give work experience to young people crying out for such help, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it.


Under Labour, Housing Benefit doubled in their last ten years – a rise from £11 billion in 2000 to £20 billion in 2010.

Imagine – when we came to office there were some households getting more than £50,000 in HB alone and some over £100,000 – Staggering.

So I moved fast to bring it under control by limiting the amount people could receive.

This early action will result in annual savings of over £2 billion by 2014/15.

We are delivering savings and returning fairness to a system spiralling out of control.

Housing Benefit reforms, guess who opposed them – Labour opposed them.


Now we are toughening up the penalty for failure to seek work. Where claimants fail to meet their clear responsibilities, benefit will be withdrawn for 3 months for the first offence, 6 months for the second and 3 years for the third.

At last, gone are the days when doing nothing was a long term option – a choice under Labour that someone was free to make. Whether to work, or not to work…

Well from now on the message is clear – you must work. And if you won’t work with us to find work – you will lose your benefit.

So when we toughened up on those shirking work, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it.


And this government is going further still. Now we will cap the amount a claimant can receive in total benefits.

Set at a maximum of average earnings it will save £275 million a year.

Even before we bring it in, capping benefits is having an effect – a third of those affected by the housing benefit cap have said they will now seek work as a result.

So, at long last we will restore fairness to the system for those who work hard and pay their taxes….

Yet when we introduced the CAP, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it.


And despite the economic difficulties, we are seeing results:

Rising employment and falling unemployment.

700,000 more in work than 2010 and over 1 million more in the private sector

Youth unemployment lower than the last election

2.5 million People once on sickness benefit now being re-assessed and two thirds preparing or looking for work.

And 124,000 fewer lone parents on inactive benefits since 2010

That’s why today I can stand before you and say;

The number of people of working age who are not expected to work is at its lowest level since 1992.

But guess who opposed all this – Labour opposed it.


The next stage is the Universal Credit – the most extensive shake up of the welfare system for years, replacing many out-of-work payments with a single, simple payment.

It will be withdrawn at a constant rate, so that people know exactly how much better off they will be for every extra hour they work, to ensure that work always pays more than benefits…

2.8 million households will gain.

The poorest will be the biggest gainers.

900,000 will be lifted out of poverty.

It will save billions in fraud and error which is rife in the existing systems.

And for the first time we will work with those who need help to manage their money so they are ready to cope with the world of work, giving them back their independence and self respect.

Universal Credit, guess who opposed it – Labour opposed it.


Labour nearly destroyed pension saving in the UK. Their means test meant those who tried to save too often retired on less than those who never saved at all. The result now is 11 million people who don’t save enough for retirement.

So our auto enrolment reforms mean up to 9 million workers will be saving through a workplace pension. And we are creating a single tier pension – which will mean, if you contribute, you will receive a pension above the means test.

The single tier will also ensure that those, such as mothers, who have taken a break in work, will receive full contributions for that time giving them a chance of their own full pension, for the first time ever.


We were all proud of what our brilliant Paralympians achieved this summer. Britain has a strong history in support for the disabled and we will continue that support for those in need. Yet, for too long it has continued unreformed, resulting in confusion for those eligible and incorrect payments of over hundreds of millions of pounds.

So by ensuring our reforms get money to those who have genuine need and that they are supported we can build a more positive approach to disability which has too often seen disabled people on the margins to one where they are more and more part of the mainstream.


Now I, like all of you in this hall, know that the interference from the European Court of Human Rights is too often unwarranted and unwanted.

But now I have to deal with the European Commission as they seek to interfere in our welfare arrangements, telling us we will have to pay benefits to anyone from Europe who comes here – from day one.

This will destroy our existing tests which require claimants to live and work in the UK for some time, be job seeking, or self-sufficient…

Ending these tests could cost of a minimum of £155 million or even more.

Nation States run their own welfare and we are not prepared to change that.

So Conference, let me simplify the message for the Commission, in case they don’t understand…..

Ils ne Passeront Pas….. (They shall not pass)


Despite all of the progress we’ve made in the last two years, there is still much to do.

We will have reduced welfare bills by £18 billion at the time of the next election and reformed welfare so it will be more effective.

Early action to cut spending has helped reduce the deficit by a quarter but with the rest of Europe and the USA in trouble, its small wonder the UK economy isn’t growing as we had hoped.

George Osborne and I recognise this means we will have to make further savings in the welfare budget, but as we save we are agreed we must relentlessly focus what we do on transforming lives.

Gone must be the days when Governments spent money to buy their way out of a problem.

For you don’t cure drug dependency by parking addicts on methadone…..

You don’t help someone who’s ill by putting them on a sickness benefit and forgetting about them…..

You don’t help family stability by paying families to live apart….

You don’t support pensioners by penalising them when they save…

And you don’t cure benefit dependency by giving people money to do nothing.

That isn’t welfare, it’s unfair – and we have to change it.

For even though we are in a coalition we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the British people that the party of Wilberforce, of Shaftesbury and Churchill oh yes and Disraeli too – The historic party of social reform – our party, is alive and well and determined to restore and strengthen British society.

That is why we have all come together here in Birmingham, because we love our country. For this is a remarkable country. Britain has given the world the rule of law, democracy, the free market, the English language and so much more. We have fought for freedom when it has been under threat and never counted the cost.

But if we care for our country we must care for all our people, for they are our country.

That is why our reforms must improve the life chances for the least of us.

That must be our mission, plain and simple – a mission, not to change people but to restore them. Through fair Government, give them the same hope and aspiration that we would all want for our children.

To deliver this mission is to govern as Conservatives.

That and only that is the way to win the next election.