Centre for social justice

A solution to Britain’s productivity problems could be on the horizon

The UK economy suffers from low productivity. Productivity measures output per person, or per time worked. If productivity was higher across the economy then people could work less, or be paid more, or both. Productivity drives an economy’s output and thus its potential growth rate and, in turn, living standards. So low productivity economies find to hard to keep up with high productive ones. This is not a new problem. Ahead of the financial crisis the UK was making progress in closing the productivity gap that existed with major competitors such as the US. Since the crisis, though, all western economies have suffered. At various times over the last decade this

What Christian Guy’s appointment says about David Cameron’s No.10

What will David Cameron do with his final few years in power? On election night, he said he wanted his party ‘to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost: the mantle of one nation’. This raised the prospect of Cameron trying to succeed where so many of his predecessors failed: in making it clear that conservatism actually delivers the fairness, the poverty reduction and the social cohesion that Labour can only talk about. Cameron has spoken about this agenda over the years, but there’s seldom much of a follow-up – raising questions about how serious he actually is. But today, we seen a signal of harder intent: he has

The myth of Britain’s two-tier education system

On Broadcasting House, one of my favourite Radio 4 programmes, was this morning discussing a report (pdf) from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty commission. It finds, amongst other things, that ‘education at a private or a Grammar school is also associated with an increased chance of labour market success’ amongst dim kids. Who’d have thunk it? During the subsequent R4 discussion, the Labour peer Joan Bakewell referred to a ‘two-tier education system’. It’s a familiar phrase and a familiar idea: that British kids are somehow cast in a binary divide: the privately-educated and the state-educated. You hear this analysis all the time. Only yesterday, my Spectator colleague Matthew Parris referred to the

State schools, not private schools, are the real sponsor of inequality in Britain

In today’s Observer, Will Hutton unwittingly highlights the poverty of the inequality debate in Britain. Gifted writers like him bang on about private schools the whole time rather than look at the far greater problem: inequality within the state system. He devotes a column moaning about the schools which, I suspect, will supply a good chunk of the students he’ll meet in his role as Principal of Hertford College, Oxford. “Social apartheid,” he says: a lazy analogy, suggesting a binary divide between state and private. In fact, the truth is far worse. Britain doesn’t have a two-tier system: we have a multi-tier system where educational attainment is directly linked to parental wealth.

Alan Milburn finally confronts Labour with the hard truth about Tony Blair

Alan Milburn has told Labour something it does not want to hear: Tony Blair was as great for the party as Margaret Thatcher was for the Tories. At a breakfast with the Centre for Social Justice this morning, the former health secretary argued that  Labour ‘could not have got it more wrong’ at the last election and urged the party to snap out of its ‘self-delusion’ that New Labour and Blair were all bad: ‘Great leaders always have a big purpose. For Churchill it was victory in war, for Thatcher victory against a stifling state. For Blair it was victory against old-fashioned attitudes and institutions that held our country back. Today, to

We need body scanners to tackle the prison drug problem

As every prisoner and ex-prisoner knows the most frequently used route for drug smuggling into all categories of jails is ‘bottling it’. This is the crude but effective smuggling technique of inserting a package of drugs into an inmate’s anus. Unless prison staff receive a tip off that a particular prisoner is acting as ‘a mule’ for this route they will likely avoid detection, as routine anal searching at prison receptions is rare. It is not generally realised how many prisoners have to go in and out of prison during their sentences for court appearances, requisition order hearings, hospital check-ups, legal town visits, or transfers to other establishments. The pushers

Spectator letters: Slavery continues to this day; and why Russia’s re-emergence as a world power is down to Obama’s apathy

Slavery isn’t over Sir: I was alarmed to read Taki’s piece in this week’s High Life (8 March) which claimed that ‘slavery… has been over since 1865, except in Africa’. The Centre for Social Justice, whose board I chair, last year published its groundbreaking report It Happens Here, exposing the desperate plight of those in modern slavery in the UK. The CSJ’s work revealed exploitation taking place across the country, from young British men enslaved on traveller sites and forced into manual labour, to vulnerable children forced to live as slaves behind closed doors in one of Britain’s thousands of cannabis farms, to young British girls being trafficked into sexual

IDS’s important call for ‘social value’

It’s the same for celebrities and policymakers: talking about marriage gets you headlines. Hence why the newspapers have concentrated on Iain DuncanSmith’s remarks today that ‘marriage should be supported and encouraged’ by the state. But there were two other parts of IDS’s speech — and the ‘social justice strategy’ document behind it — that I found more arresting. The first was his incisive attack on the Gordon Brown approach to fighting poverty (define it statistically and then massage the statistics so that they work in your favour), which deserves repeating: ‘First, we have seen a social policy overwhelmingly focussed on moving people above the income poverty line. A laudable ambition

Britain’s banks fail the poor

Britain’s banks aren’t working for the poor. We, the better off, might moan when our internet banking crashes or in-branch mortgage advisers can’t meet us on Saturday mornings; but these are frustrations the poor can only dream of. The individuals and families most in need of ethical finance, clear rules, reliable advice and appropriate products, have almost nowhere to turn on our high streets today. As a result some people never bother: 1.4 million people in the UK have no transactional bank account. For others, the banking industry’s hidden charges, penalties and standard fees mean they crash out of mainstream finance in even worse shape. Exasperated and bruised, many turn

The ‘war on drugs’ has not been won

It’s fashionable nowadays to claim that young people in Britain don’t know how to have a good time. There’s certainly plenty of evidence to suggest we’re avoiding the drugs our parents’ generation got their kicks from. Fraser Nelson discussed this in The Spectator last November, arguing that Britain’s youth were becoming more abstemious: ‘Marijuana, LSD, speed, cocaine — surveys show that every drug you can think of is plunging in popularity amongst the young. The proportion of under-20s who say they have taken drugs in the past month has halved over the last decade. Only two drugs are on the up and both are legal: Ritalin and Modafinil, stimulants that can power students through

The View from 22 — Theresa May’s terrorist trap, Universal Credit in crisis and saving the British Museum

How will Theresa May deal with the calls to tackle Islamism in the wake of the Woolwich murder? In this week’s Spectator cover feature, Douglas Murray argues the steps the Home Secretary needs to take are ‘not hard’ but her hands are tied by the problematic mixture of European law and her colleagues. On the latest View from 22 podcast, Douglas discusses why politicians offer the same response to terrorist incidents, the need to take radical steps now and why Britain should step away from the ECHR to deal with controversial figures such as Abu Qatada and Anjem Choudary. Christian Guy of the Centre for Social Justice also joins to

British households are still overwhelmed by debt

Despite ‘the age of austerity’, Britain still has a debt problem. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Centre for Social Justice. It suggests that personal debt in the UK has reached a record high of £1.4 trillion, or 90 per cent of the UK’s economic output last year. That’s not happened overnight; but the debt level has increased steadily over the last decade: Breaking this down, the CSJ says that the average household debt is now £54,000 (nearly double what it was a decade ago). Thanks to the increase in borrowing, 5,000 people were made homeless last year due to mortgage and rent arrears. Christian Guy, director

The fight for your life is now raging

Beneath your noses, a great change in this country is being planned. Secret polls have been taken, and a private member’s bill has been tabled. The euthanasia lobby is limbering up for the fight of its life: to change the law for once and for all. The Assisted Dying Bill, introduced by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, is the fourth such to come before the House of Lords in the last decade. Since it is almost identical to the last bill, which sought to let doctors supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients and which Parliament rejected in 2006, why is this one being introduced? The answer has largely to

Which tax cuts would be best for the economy?

With all these tax cut suggestions kicking about — and with the British economy desperately in need of some oomph — it’s worth asking: which would help growth the most? It’s not of course the only consideration, but it is clearly an important one as we struggle to find our way out of recession.   Fortunately, the OECD is on hand with two recent reports to help answer our question. The first, ‘Tax Reform and Economic Growth’, divides taxes into four broad categories and ranks them on how harmful they are to growth: This suggests that the Centre for Policy Studies is right — on growth grounds at least —

Any questions for IDS?

At 6pm this evening, I’m interviewing Iain Duncan Smith at a Conservative Party conference fringe meeting. He is fighting a war on at least three fronts: the welfare-to-work programme, the creation of his Universal Credit (ie, rewriting the benefits system), and producing a government response to the riots and the conditions behind them. I may put questions to him from CoffeeHousers, so if you have any please leave them below. IDS is surprisingly candid for a Cabinet member, perhaps because he wants this to be his last job in government. He isn’t watching his words, worried that he’ll say something to damage his promotion chances. I’d say that his job

A considerable achievement

This morning’s welfare event was one of the great “Who’da thunk it?” moments of this government so far. Here we had the Lib Dem leader providing backing vocals for a former Tory leader who has not only become a minister, but who is implementing an agenda that only a few months ago was little more than an idea in a think-tank report. Reviewing that Centre for Social Justice report for Coffee House at the time, I said it deserved to influence welfare policy for years to come. Now, it looks as though it will do just that. The immensity of Iain Duncan Smith’s achievement should not be underestimated. No doubt,

Tim Montgomerie’s broad church

The FT Magazine has a cover boy today: Tim Montgomerie. It’s about how “a small group of Christian Conservatives are rewriting party doctrine,” and has positioned Tim in such a way that there appears to be a halo behind his head with his eyes heavenwards. Something tells me this was not the picture Tim was expecting. The front cover tease sounds like one of these conspiracy theories you get in America: the capture of a political party by a small band of idealogues etc etc. Read on, and the piece is fair and instructive: it tells the important – but hardly controversial – part of a key aspect of Conservative