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Speech

Iain Duncan Smith: Our contract with the country for 21st Century Welfare

Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Tuesday, October 5 2010

Iain Duncan Smith

I am honoured to be standing here today as David Cameron's Work & Pensions Secretary.

It is also my privilege to be chairman of the newly-founded Cabinet committee on social justice. 

This Conservative-led government has concern for the poor running through its DNA and we are focused each day in order to see joined up government working together for the national interest.

At Work and Pensions I am also honoured to lead a great team.

Chris Grayling. Maria Miller. David Freud. And my pensions minister, Liberal Democrat Steve Webb. I couldn't ask for better colleagues.
 
We are all 100 per cent determined to translate David Cameron's words into great reforming deeds.
 
After thirteen long years in opposition, all of us are a little battle scarred by the passing of time.
 
 But today, I want to pay tribute to you, the members of this party upon whom we rely and too often who we in national politics seem to take for granted.
 
For when it seemed as though the selfishness, spin, and sheer effrontery of Labour would go on forever,
 
As they crushed our civil liberties, trashed the constitution and racked up massive debts,
 
You continued to work tirelessly at each passing election.
 
You held your heads high when others doubted and held true to the belief that there would come a better day.
 
You didn't give up hope.
 
You stayed the course.
 
Then finally, at long last, the British people, tired of the Gordon and Tony show, threw out the second rate soap opera that had become New Labour.
 
For all that, for all your dedication and hard work
 
You have every right to celebrate,
 
This is your week
 
You have put us here.
 
That is why I want to say, thank you.
 
Yet just being in office cannot be enough.
 
Surely we didn't wait all those years just to BE in office.
 
We must now take this opportunity to rebuild our country to DO all the things we know have to be done. 
 
We can only do that because David Cameron took the tough decisions to form a coalition - to act in the national interest -what a change - a Prime Minister acting in the national interest as opposed to a Labour government acting in self interest.
 
This country needs a completely different type of government. It needs a government of transformation. A Government determined to mend what is broken and reform what doesn't work.
 
The first part of the transformation is rebuilding the economy
 
To do this we have to cut the appalling deficit
 
Too often you hear the media explain that cutting the debt is about the markets but I want to tell you that it is about much, much more.
 
For beyond the world of the six figure salaries, credit rating agencies, banks and big bonuses is a very different world.
 
It is the world of the hard working family, struggling to make ends meet. The family on average wages living in houses they can only just afford, often a long distance from their work. 
 
They may not be at the front of marches or in celebrity magazines but they are the true beating heart of this nation.
 
How easy it would be for them to give up and fall back on the state, like too many they see around them.
 
Yet even when times are tight they strive to stay in work and do better for their children.
 
They know that it is right to pay taxes to help those in real need; all they ask is fairness from the government when they do.
 
Yet instead they see their taxes go to pay for an unemployed family living in a house costing £100,000 in rent.
 
They see their money support a system that penalizes mothers and fathers who choose to live together, with their kids.
 
They see their money  fund a system that rewards worklessness and penalises the choice to work
 
Labour may call that welfare - but I call it unfair.
 
It has to end and I promise you today:
 
It will end.
 
It was one year ago in Manchester that David Cameron gave us this mission.
 
He told this Conference that Labour had made the poor poorer.
 
That it had left youth unemployment higher and inequality greater.
 
Where Labour had failed on poverty he promised that our party would succeed.
 
A great and noble ambition and one you proved you shared.
 
Blair came in with a massive majority and the goodwill of the people in 1997.
 
The Treasury's coffers were overflowing with money from the strong economy that the Conservatives left Gordon Brown, and they had a mandate for reform. But they did not meet that challenge.
 
As a result there are actually 800,000 more working age adults in poverty than in 1998/99.
 
1.4 million people have been on out-of-work benefits for nearly all of the years Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were in office.
 
People living in the poorest neighbourhoods of this country will, on average, die seven years earlier than people living in the richest neighbourhoods.
 
Labour  failed
 
This because they trusted too much in the power of the state to solve every problem.
 
They confused being strong with being harsh and fairness with favours.
 
Labour became a party that lost sight of the basic facts about how to beat poverty.
 
For me, for my department and for this coalition government we recognise that there are five pathways out of poverty.
 
•          Strong, stable families.
•          A school that gives you the skills you need for your future.
•          Work where you can provide for your family
•          Streets that are free of drugs so that our children can grow up in safety
•          And freedom from debt.
 
A government welfare cheque can protect against hardship but can never substitute for a loving parent, an inspirational teacher and a good employer.
 
Neither, however, should government wash its hands of ensuring the system is supportive of people who make the right choices.
 
Who do the right things.
 
Labour designed a benefits system that meant it was often better for parents to live apart than to live together.
 
They designed a system that disincentivised work.
 
That perversity must change.
 
Government has a vital role to play but it must play a different role.
 
Under Labour it interfered where it was unwanted and was absent where it was needed.
 
It subsidised people who made the wrong choice but was on the backs of those who tried to do the right thing.
 
Today I want to set out the role that I see for government in welfare.
 
I want to set out a welfare contract.
 
A contract with those out of work - who should be in work.
 
A contract with Britain's most vulnerable people.
 
And a contract with the taxpayer.
 
First our contract with the unemployed - those who can work.
 
Getting a job isn't always easy - particularly at the moment - but it's the best path to self respect and to a better standard of living.
 
That is why today I am delighted to announce the introduction of the Universal Credit, which will, I believe, restore fairness and simplicity to a complex, outdated and wildly expensive benefits system. A real time system which will also help cut the cost of fraud and error
 
 Our implementation of the Credit alongside the comprehensive work programme will make sure that everyone out of work will be given the greatest support to find work and every financial incentive to stay in work, because work will pay.
 
Today we are going to go further. After discussions with the Prime Minster and the Chancellor I can announce that I will set up the New Enterprise Allowance that will be run by Chris Grayling.
 
If you have been unemployed for 6 months and want to start your own business we want to support you.
 
 We will provide business mentoring and a financial package worth up to £2000 to get your business up and running.
 
We want to see 10 000 new small businesses by next year.
 
We will be on your side when you make tough choices.
 
This is the biggest reform of the welfare system in a generation.
 
No longer will they be able to say it isn't worth their while going to work.
 
No longer will they be trapped in a complex system which means they have to ask an advisor if they will better off in work than on benefits.
 
 
We will change this broken system to help those at the bottom end make a new start and change their lives through work.
 
But that also means that the unemployed have to play their part as well.
 
We will break down the barriers to work and ensure work pays but in return, we have the right to insist that when work is available you take that work and work hard to keep that job. For those who want to choose not to work, under this government this will no longer be an option.
 
We will work with you but you must work with us.
 
That is our contract with the unemployed.
 
Second our contract with this country's most vulnerable people.
 
I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired.
 
You have nothing to fear.
 
For pensioners it is this government that has moved quickly to re-link the basic state pension with earnings - something we should all here be enormously proud of.
 
We will crack down on fraud and help able people off welfare.
 
This means we will have enough resources to provide peace of mind to the very vulnerable. This matters to us.
 
This government and this party don't regard caring for the needy as a burden.
 
It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change.
 
This is our contract with the most vulnerable.
 
Finally our contract with the taxpayer.
 
Most people in this country don't wake up early in the dark and cold, and head to their job in order for the state to take their money and waste it.
 
They don't slump, exhausted in their chair after work, just to see their taxes spent on people who can work but won't.
 
I'm all for fairness.
 
I will always fight for fairness for people who have fallen on hard times.
 
I will always fight for fairness for the very vulnerable.
 
But fairness must be a two way street.
 
I'm determined that the people who pay their taxes into this welfare state get a fair deal too.
 
I want to look every taxpayer in the eye and be able to say that their money is either going to people who are on the path back to independence or their money is going to people who, without question, deserve society's care.
 
No more spend and waste.
 
This is our contract with British taxpayers.
 
The years ahead will be tough. Getting the deficit under control will not be easy. It will require superhuman effort and concentration and I will work with George Osborne to achieve it.
 
It is in that context we should see the Chancellor's announcement on child benefit, a decision which is tough, fair and right. There are no easy decisions as we try to get the deficit down but we all suffer if we fail this test - the poorest the most.
 
And I tell you conference this coalition cannot reach for success by standing on the backs of the poor.
 
Yet even so our ambition must not stop at fixing the deficit. Now more than ever we have to lift our eyes to the horizon, look beyond the deficit and see the kind of country we want to live in. It has to be one which values all of us and no longer leaves so many trapped beyond hope or aspiration.
 
For me this is a personal journey as much as it is about government.
 
You see, some years ago I made a commitment to a group of people in Glasgow.
 
 I had been on an official visit to the estate they lived in and with me were cameras and reporters. They thanked me for coming but one of them said as I left that I would move on and the visit would hardly be a memory in years to come.
 
 I was stung by that remark most of all because in my heart of hearts I knew they were right. Just another politician, another photo op, another town, the usual cynical vote catching procession.
 
That is why I swore to myself there and then that I would try to change that and put their problems front and centre stage of British politics.
 
Today we commit to change the culture that no longer values work and fails to care for the most vulnerable. This is an enormous commitment but one that the British people deserve.
 
On the 6th of May the British people honoured us
 
Now let us honour them.

Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith

Iain is the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions and Member of Parliament Chingford and Woodford Green.

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