The welfare white paper we have launched today has fairness at its heart.
Our Universal Credit is a radical and liberal policy. It will simplify and amalgamate the main welfare benefits into one single system; ensure that work always pays; and alleviate poverty by boosting take-up and encouraging people into work. It is exactly the kind of change that we came into politics to make.
Labour failed miserably on welfare. During their 13 years in office the welfare bill rose by 40% to £87bn. Under their system people moving into work can still lose more than 90% of every pound they earn: a punitive tax on the shoulders of the poor.
The welfare system should not be judged on how much money is spent on it, but on how much of a difference it makes to people’s lives. We will return the welfare system to its historic mission, as articulated by the great Liberal William Beveridge, to offer security but not ‘stifle incentive, opportunity and responsibility’.
Poverty plus a pound is simply not an ambitious enough goal.
That is why the plans we are announcing today will remove artificial disincentives to work. It must always be worth working, even for a few hours. Taken together our welfare reforms should reduce the number of workless households by 300,000 within three years of implementation. And of course any fair system must include power to use sanctions, so we are giving JobCentre advisers the powers to ensure that there are appropriate and measured steps that can be taken against the small minority who persistently refuse genuine opportunities to work or to train to get the skills to work.
Making welfare work and making it fair is a key test for any government. We are determined to ensure that a government of which the Liberal Democrats are a part passes that test.
Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Steve Webb MP
Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions