By Paul Goodman
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Poorer people should be the priority for any tax cuts the Coalition Government makes, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said yesterday evening.
He also indicated that Britain could seek a retrospective treaty change in the battle over European Commission demands over foreign benefit claimants.
Speaking at a conference fringe meeting held by ConservativeHome, Duncan Smith also said that the riots showed that there is a "growing underclass" in Britain.
He hopes to announce a major childcare package "in about a week's time" and said that he has taken "personal charge" of implementing Universal Credit.
Interviewed by Fraser Nelson, the Editor of the Spectator, the Work and Pensions Secretary referred when asked about tax cuts to the Chancellor's budget raising of tax thresholds.
He described it as "one of the short-term measures which may even be a longer term measure" and said his own personal view is that thresholds should be raised further.
"We are already in that area and I of course can't speak for the Chancellor, but if we're going to put money anywhere the low paid are the people who should get support."
Duncan Smith labelled the Commission's view that EU citizens should have the right to come to Britain and enjoy access to a wide range of benefits as "madness".
"I've had lawyers saying that i should be more circumspect about this but being circumspect is not my forte," he said.
He indicated that although no final decision has been taken and "we will have to see what happens", the Government could seek a retrospective treaty change.
This could enable Britain to use its developing alliance with other EU countries over the matter to block the Commission's plan.
On the riots, the Work and Pensions Secretary said that "we have a growing underclass in the UK that is detached from society as we understand it."
"These weren't ordinary riots. Many of the rioters were mobile, and these were criminal riots moving very fast. The police dealt with them by swamping the streets."
"You take your life in your hands as a young person crossing other gang zones to work in London and Glasgow," he said.
On childcare, he attacked the 16-hour work rule left by Labour and said that work should "pay for every hour you do it."
He said that he package he will announce will also deal with support for parents with younger children and help during holidays.
On the Universal Credit, he responded forcefully to recent claims about computer problems, arguing that he was "not proposing major change".
He said that moving benefit details on to computers is being done "section by section…at the moment we are on track with the development of this process."
"So we're not doing it all as a big bang. We're not migrating everyone across at once. I'm not being complacent and have taken personal charge of these IT projects."
Asked whether he expected to be at the Conservative Conference in 2020 to review his reforms, he said "Oh God, it would be very sad if I was."
"By the end of this Parliament, we will have had two years of the implementation of the universal credit, first for new claimants, then older ones."
"So by the time we hit the next election we can be sure that we will have started a relatively significant proportion of the change."
"This is the one Government programme that seems finally to have scored some political consensus," he said.
"Labour keep voting against it, but none the less say they support it, while the LibDems stress that it's one of the policies that binds them to the coalition."
The meeting was sponsored by Prudential and Age UK.