The Spectator

Iain Duncan Smith’s speech on welfare reform – full text

The Work and Pensions Secretary was speaking to the Centre for Social Justice this morning.


It is a pleasure to be hosted today by the Centre for Social Justice – setting out a vision for Britain’s welfare state alongside the organisation where, in a sense, it all started.

Within their critique, the CSJ set out a plan for reform for Government, and today I want to look at that.

But in 2010, we inherited an economy which had entered the worst recession in living memory, with the deficit rising, costs spiralling, and GDP shrinking. People were losing their jobs and feared for the future.

It was vital that we immediately set out a long-term economic plan to put this right and secure Britain’s future – at the heart of which was the need to cut the deficit.

The Left would frame this as a rigid dichotomy:

On one side, those opposing cuts, decrying all savings as an assault on the poor and vulnerable.

On the other, those urging that the whip be cracked harder, clamping down on spending and making deeper cuts.

Yet the reality is rather more complex.

After all, if we didn’t reduce the deficit, the biggest losers in the end would be those who depend most on public services and the welfare safety net.

So today, I want to show that we would have wanted to reform the welfare state, even if we had no deficit.

As Conservatives, we should hate the idea of people with unfulfilled potential languishing on welfare.

Welfare reform is fundamentally about opportunity and life change…

… cutting the cost of social failure by transforming the life chances and outcomes of those on benefits…

… restoring fiscal stability, and restoring lives at the same time.

Hidden reality

10 years ago at the CSJ, our aim was to gain a better understanding of why people found themselves trapped in disadvantage, and to develop solutions for helping them break free and secure their futures.

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