Charlie Elphicke is Member of Parliament for Dover and Deal and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Work & Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP.
In 1984, Ronald Reagan ran his re-election campaign with the slogan ‘It’s Morning Again in America’. His campaign ad stated ‘More men and women will go to work that ever before’ and asked ‘Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?’.
We have a similar positive story to tell in Britain. At the heart of this is the progress that has been made on the Department of Work and Pensions’ three priorities. To get Britain working. To restore fairness to our welfare system. To break the cycle of welfare dependency. These are easy to list, but much harder to accomplish. Yet strong progress is being made on all three fronts. As with Reagan’s 1984 campaign for a second term, this positive jobs record can be a central part of our case for a Conservative majority government after May 2015.
The jobs revolution and the fall in unemployment is one of the defining legacies of this Government. Unemployment, 7.9 per cent in 2010, is now 6 per cent and falling sharply. A record number of people will go to work this morning, with unemployment down by over half a million in the last year alone. These are fantastic figures. We should be proud of our record on jobs when we go to the country in 2015.
These record falls in unemployment didn’t happen by accident. They happened because our economy has the fastest growth in the G7 and our welfare reforms are working. The Claimant Commitment ensures jobseekers must commit to doing all they can to find work to receive benefits. The Work Programme is providing personalised support for those who seek work. The proof of the pudding is in the eating – we are getting Britain working and unemployment is down sharply.
Our welfare reforms are not just about getting people back into work – they are about transforming lives and breaking the cycle of welfare dependency. Perhaps the most damning statistic from the last Labour Government is that the number of households where no-one had ever worked nearly doubled to 269,000. Too many were left on benefits – abandoned without hope.
This toxic Labour legacy has been turned round. Since 2010, the number of households where no-one has ever worked is down 49,000. The total number of workless households is at a record low. A life stuck on welfare without hope is no life at all.
These figures show how the DWP is helping to turn lives around and give people back hope and their future. This is the cornerstone of our welfare reforms. To help people help themselves and get back on their own two feet. Universal Credit will now be rolled out across Britain in 2015, ensuring work always pays. The Universal Credit pilots show it is effective in getting more people into work and helping them to stay in work for longer. The roll-out of Universal Credit will boost the jobs revolution.
The third priority is about restoring fairness to our welfare system. Under Labour, households could claim limitless benefits. Small wonder our welfare bill rocketed 60 per cent when Labour were in power. The £26,000 benefit cap is now restoring fairness and public trust to our benefits system. It’s based on a simple principle – that a household on benefits can no longer receive more in benefits than the average wage for working families. More than 12,000 households are no longer subject to the cap as they have moved into work or stopped claiming housing benefit. That’s 12,000 more households with a brighter future. Fairness to the taxpayer goes hand in hand with getting people back to work.
Taxpayer fairness also means tackling welfare tourism and tightening access to our benefits system. Migrants should come to the UK to work and contribute, not to sign on. That’s why the Department has introduced reforms to limit EU migrants claiming housing benefit and unemployment benefit. EU migrants’ access to Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits are also now restricted. These new welfare rules allow migrants to come and contribute to society, not take advantage of the British welfare system.
Reagan won the 1984 Presidential election with a landslide.The American people backed his positive vision for the future and strong record of progress. The Conservative Party can do the same in 2015. On jobs, unemployment and welfare, we have a great story to tell. It’s clear we cannot risk a Labour Government given their record – particularly given the clouds gathering over the global economy. To borrow from Reagan, it’s morning again in Britain. Why would we want to go back to where we were five short years ago?