6 December 2018 – today’s press releases

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle… Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal Mental Health Review must lead to more investment Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal Responding to the […]

You begin to sense the uncertainty emanating from Whitehall, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere in the governance jungle…

  • Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal
  • Mental Health Review must lead to more investment
  • Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

Brexit plans could lead to European Windrush scandal

Responding to the Department for Exiting the EU’s policy paper on Citizens’ Rights, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs Ed Davey said:

The Government has finally admitted that free movement of labour won’t end this March.

The fact they tried to sneak this out shows yet again that people can’t trust anything this Government says on Brexit and immigration – they are still refusing to publish their Immigration White Paper, which is supposed to tell us how immigration policy will work after Brexit.

The reality is this Government knows immigration benefits the UK and is needed – but they dare not tell people the truth. So instead the Prime Minister panders to prejudice and calls EU citizens aren’t ‘queue jumpers’, – when in reality they are our neighbours and our friends, our NHS workers and our farm labourers.

And even today’s statement is misleading. Everyone knows that many eligible EU citizens won’t get their settled status papers from this incompetent Government and Home Office by the end of the application period. There’s now a danger of a European Windrush.

Mental Health Review must lead to more investment

Responding to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said:

I am grateful to Simon Wessely for the work he has done on the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.

While I welcome the outcome of the review, I believe this must be a first step towards more radical reforms.

In the Government’s response to the Review, there must be a commitment to invest more money to support those at crisis point and help people before they reach crisis point. The Conservatives to date have failed to adequately invest in Mental Health. Without strong goals and commitments from the Government, rising detention rates will not be adequately challenged.

Liberal Democrats demand better for patients. Where the Conservatives have failed, the Liberal Democrats would invest money and deliver the reforms necessary.

Universal Credit Causing Housing Crisis – Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Lib Dems have condemned the housing and homelessness crisis being caused by the rollout of Universal Credit after evidence from Cardiff emerged showing far higher levels of rent arrears amongst Universal Credit claimants compared to housing benefit claimants.

Unfortunately, the number of Universal Credit claimants falling into rent arrears has led to many landlords across the UK refusing to accept any tenants in receipt of Universal Credit.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Cllr Joe Carter said;

It’s deeply disappointing but not at all surprising that Universal Credit is pushing more and more people into rent arrears. We’ve consistently warned this would be the result of Universal Credit, only for our warnings to fall on deaf ears.

The UK Government must listen now and allow the housing benefit section of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord. Doing nothing will only lead to more Universal Credit claimants being pushed into rent arrears and made homeless. That is not an option.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this will also mean a loss of rent for councils and housing associations, restricting their ability to build more social housing and provide other vital services. Meaning Universal Credit is already damaging future generations as well.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds added:

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently called for the UK Government to pause and fix Universal Credit, and this is one of the many reasons why. Universal Credit is causing increased poverty, increased homelessness and untold misery. It must not be allowed to continue in its current form.

Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Can it be that Corbyn thinks a “coup de grace” is some kind of fancy ice cream?

Instead of pressing home the attack on the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition helped her regain her composure.

Maybe Jeremy Corbyn thinks a “coup de grace” is an exotic ice cream, which true socialists should not administer.

The Government is reeling from its defeats last night on Brexit, one of which, on the contempt motion, was inflicted by his colleague Sir Keir Starmer.

Does the Leader of the Opposition seek to follow up these successes by harrying the discombobulated Prime Minister? Does he recognise that this is an extraordinary week, when her parliamentary weakness has been exposed in the most humiliating way?

Does he ridicule her in front of her own backbenchers, and make them embarrassed to support her? Does he seek to avert the danger that she could yet turn her weaknesses into a strength?

Of course not. Corbyn loyally avoids the whole subject. He offers her a rest from Brexit, a chance to regain her composure. It is hard not to conclude that he is trying to prop the Prime Minister up.

Attacks on her could, of course, misfire, and prompt her own troops to rally round and defend her. But Corbyn’s duty is to find some way of demonstrating that she has become indefensible.

Instead he talked about Universal Credit. That is a worthy subject, but also, just now, a culpable evasion of the great issues which confront not just the Conservative Party but the nation.

As a result of Corbyn’s dereliction of duty, Prime Minister’s Questions was a complete anti-climax. Corbyn paraded his virtuous concern about poverty, and various other MPs paraded their virtuous concern about various other issues.

Politics in these circumstances becomes a barren series of postures. The House was boisterous, but Corbyn gave it nothing to be boisterous about.

Ian Blackford, for the Scottish Nationalists, suggested “the Prime Minister has been misleading the House inadvertently or otherwise”, was ordered by the Speaker to rephrase this in order to avoid any  “imputation of dishonour”, and did not really get any further.

But Blackford is only allowed two questions, and is not auditioning to be the next Prime Minister.

Perhaps Corbyn, who each week manages to waste six questions, fears May might be replaced by someone who shows him up as  a third-rate parliamentarian.

What policies should we have in response to the UN report on UK poverty?

I am suggesting a replacement for Universal Credit. We have discussed recently on LDV <https://www.libdemvoice.org/not-even-a-tin-of-baked-beans-a-visitor-shows-the-need-for-radical-reforms-59181.html> the report by Philip Alston the UN’s Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights on poverty in the UK <https:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf>. He points out that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty, 4 million of them 50% below […]

I am suggesting a replacement for Universal Credit.

We have discussed recently on LDV <https://www.libdemvoice.org/not-even-a-tin-of-baked-beans-a-visitor-shows-the-need-for-radical-reforms-59181.html> the report by Philip Alston the UN’s Special Rapporteur on poverty and human rights on poverty in the UK <https:www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Poverty/EOM_GB_16Nov2018.pdf>.

He points out that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty, 4 million of them 50% below the poverty line and 1.5 million are destitute. How can we be letting this happen when we are the fifth wealthiest country in the world?

It is recognised that Universal Credit is a contributory factor in causing people to live below the poverty line. Therefore we should scrap it and restore all the pre-2012 benefits including the national Council Tax Benefit. We should introduce a new benefit, National Credit, to replace Tax Credits for people in work. We are already committed to restoring the pre-2016 work allowances to Universal Credit. The pre-2016 work allowances should apply to the new benefit: we should go further and increase them for those without another eligibility status so a single person can keep the first £30 a week and the second earner £20.

The taper for the new benefit should be 63%. Everyone receiving the new benefit will automatically be eligible for Housing Benefit if they pay rent, and Council Tax Benefit, if they pay Council Tax, and these will be withdrawn at a combined rate of 63%.

The report also points out that “Universal Credit has built a digital barrier that effectively obstructs many individuals’ access to their entitlements”. This new benefit should be claimable by phone, at a Jobcentre or via the Internet. Claimants must have the choice to be paid either every month or every two weeks. Housing Benefit should continue to be paid directly to the landlord.

We need to scrap the idea that most claimants can afford to pay back benefits they get in advance. If you have no money and you receive your benefit early but have to pay it back at 33%, you would be short of 33% needed to live on for each of the next three months. Even if it were only clawed back at 10%, you would be 10% short of enough needed to live on for ten months. Therefore we should scrap the idea that most claimants can afford to repay ‘a hardship loan’. It should only be a loan if the person has savings to compensate it from, or is owed the money from someone (such as an ex-employee).

We are already committed to abolishing the Benefit Cap and the sanctions regime. The level of benefit should pay all of a person’s housing costs, and no one should be left with no money to live on.

We should increase the level of benefits to those receiving the basic amount live on the poverty line and not below it. After adding inflation (5.2%) to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2015/16 figures, these would be £151.49 a week for a single person and £260.90 a week for a couple for April 2018. The first stage of this I think should be to return the basic benefit levels to their 2012 real value – £71 increased to £78.31 for a single person; £111.45 increased to £122.93 for a couple (based on inflation of 10.3 % between September 2012 and September 2018).

We also need to do something about the low levels of wages in the UK where according to KPMG 22% of jobs now pay less than the real living wage (£9 an hour outside London and £10.55 for London).

* Michael Berwick-Gooding is a Liberal Democrat member in Basingstoke and has held various party positions at local, regional and English Party level. He posts on this site as Michael BG.

“Not even a tin of baked beans!” A visitor shows the need for radical reforms.

Ten per cent – TEN PER CENT – of the population of Cumbria are using food banks! said a fellow church-goer to me in horror, after a Sunday service in a West Cumbrian village church. We were discussing the local bearing of the damning findings by the UN rapporteur Philip Alston, reporting on the effects […]

Ten per cent – TEN PER CENT – of the population of Cumbria are using food banks!

said a fellow church-goer to me in horror, after a Sunday service in a West Cumbrian village church. We were discussing the local bearing of the damning findings by the UN rapporteur Philip Alston, reporting on the effects of austerity policies on Britain today.

After a twelve-day tour of Britain’s towns and cities, Mr Alston, UN expert on extreme poverty and human rights, spoke in stark term about his findings, in London on Friday.

Clearly shocked by what he had found, according to the Independent’s report he said that successive governments had overseen a systematic dismantling of the social safety net,
He spoke of meeting;

  • People dependent on food banks for their next meal
  • People sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless
  • Children growing up in poverty
  • Young people who feel gangs are their only way out of destitution
  • People with disabilities told they need to go back to work or lose benefits, against their doctor’s orders
  • People who have sold sex for money or shelter

He said;

The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union poses particular risks for people in poverty, but the Government appears to be treating this as an afterthought.

Dwelling on the effects of the rollout of Universal Credit, he maintained that the system had been imposed with “a sudden tonne of bricks approach, utterly inconsistent with… the whole British sense of community and the values of justice and fairness.”

He said;

The command and control approach reflected in Universal Credit is that sanctions should be harsh, immediate and painful – and yet all of the evidence that I’ve seen indicate that sanctions are usually counter-productive, that they create fear and loathing among claimants and they impose immense hardship.

He went into wider implications of government policies as he saw them. The ‘vital role’ of local authorities had been ‘gutted’ by a series of government policies, with public land sold off, libraries closed down, and youth services sized down. Soon, he suggested, there will be nowhere for young people to go.

They will find themselves living in an increasingly hostile society because community roots are being broken.

Asked what he thought about the UK’s future, Mr Alston said,

Britain is heading towards an alienated society… two dramatically different societies – of people living the high life but people on the other hand not able to afford a tin of baked beans.

He had spoken to government ministers, but found them unresponsive.

The Independent asked for Labour’s response, and was told that the party will stop the rollout of Universal Credit, end the benefit freeze and transform the social security system. However, Labour did not oppose the recent Budget measures which gave greater tax cuts to wealthier people, and neither do they whole-heartedly oppose Brexit. It is we Liberal Democrats who must lead the campaign for the radical reforms our country so urgently needs.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

Rudd returns to help sell May’s deal

She didn’t establish herself as a strategic Home Secretary, but is a highly effective media performer.

Theresa May cannot rely on the Brexiteers in her Cabinet to go out and sell her draft Brexit deal enthusiastically.  Liam Fox has been helpful to her today, but within very narrow confines.  Two of the holders of great offices of state want the Prime Minister to return to Brussels to push for concessions – Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt.  That has left her reliant this week on the energetic Matt Hancock.

Amber Rudd’s return to the top table will be linked to Downing Street’s need for strong, articulate, media-experienced performers to tour the studios on May’s behalf.  The new Work and Pensions Secretary is a first-class communicator: far more adept than the Prime Minister at getting on the front foot, and completely committed to a central element of the draft deal: frictionless trade – or as near to frictionless as can be achieved.  She was a passionate Remainer during the EU referendum, stepping up for TV debates, and closely linked to the anti-Brexit campaign in which her brother, Roland Rudd, was a big cheese.

In one sense, the appointment is surprising.  Rudd was a senior voice in the pro-deal element of backbench former and present Tory Remainers.  Her departure leaves it weaker.  Furthermore, she has an ultra-marginal seat, and is now to be responsible for the hyper-vulnerable business of managing Universal Credit.

But she is the kind of centre-leftish Conservative who is now at this Government’s centre of gravity.  Esther McVey out, Rudd in makes the Cabinet even less leave-tilting than before, with Boris Johnson, David Davis, Dominic Raab and McVey all gone.  There is a big question about whether a Minister compelled so recently to resign should return to government so quickly.  There has been a campaign to suggest that civil servants were to blame for the Windrush debacle.  But for all Rudd’s force on television, she didn’t establish herself as a strategic Home Secretary.  However, she does fill a gap as a Soft Brexitish future leadership contender.  It is possible there may be a vacancy soon.

“We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal.” McVey’s resignation letter – full text

“I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal. I could not look my constituents in the eye were I to do that. I therefore have no alternative but to resign…”

Dear Prime Minister,

There is no more important task for this Government than delivering on the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. This is a matter of trust. It is about the future of our country and the integrity of our democracy.

The deal you put before the Cabinet yesterday does not honour the result of the referendum. Indeed, it doesn’t meet the tests you set at the outset of your premiership.

Repeatedly you have said that we must regain control of our money, our borders, and our laws, and develop our own independent trade policy. I have always supported you to deliver on those objectives. Even after Chequers when you knew I shared the concerns of a very significant number of colleagues, I believed that we could still work collectively to honour the will of the British people and secure the right outcome for the future of our country. This deal fails to do this.

The proposals put before Cabinet, which will soon be judged by the entire country, means handing over around £39 billion to the EU without anything in return. It will trap us in a customs union, despite you specifically promising the British people we would not be. It will bind the hands of not only this, but future Governments in pursuing genuinely free trade policies. We wouldn’t be taking back control, we would be handing over control to the EU and even to a third country for arbitration.

It also threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom, which as a Unionist is a risk I cannot be party to.

The British people have always been ahead of politicians on this issue, and it will be no good trying to pretend to them that this deal honours the result of the referendum when it is so obvious to everyone it doesn’t.

We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal.

I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal. I could not look my constituents in the eye were I to do that. I therefore have no alternative but to resign from the Government.

It has been a huge honour to serve as Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, and I am immensely proud of the part I have played in the record levels of employment we have seen in all parts of the UK. Youth unemployment has halved since 2010, and we now have record number of women and BAME in work and since 2013, 972,000 more disabled people in work.

With employment over 3.3 million more than in 2010 we have helped 1,000 more people into work each and every day since we took office.

I am extremely grateful to you for appointing me to the role, and for the support you have given me, not least in the run up to the budget, ensuring Universal Credit got a much-needed injection of £4.5 billion. That has made my decision a greater wrench.

However, in politics you have to be true to the public and also true to yourself. Had I stayed in the Government and supported this deal with the EU I wouldn’t be doing that.

Yours sincerely,

Esther McVey”

Robert Halfon: How the patronising metropolitan elites wrinkled up their noses at more money for potholes

Plus: Unsung Conservative heroes. The Centre for Rocket Studies. And: why do we need the traditional, three-year University course?

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Workers Budget

Credit where credit is due, the Budget last week was exactly what was needed. Tax cuts for the lower paid, increases in the Living Wage, a fuel duty freeze, and more money for our NHS.  It was astonishing how the metropolitan classes sniffed at the £420 million for potholes – one journalist argued that it was wrong given the threat to our environment. Given that our town and road infrastructure is riven with potholes, and how small white van businesses and motorists depend on good roads, it was so typical of the anti-car brigade to be so aloof from day-to-day realities.

I welcomed the £200 million for vulnerable youths and the £400 million more for education capital spending – though much more is needed; ideally, a Ten Year Plan, similar to the NHS, if education is not going to become our Achilles heel.  It is vital that the Spending Round next year, sets out the a long term education plan, to ensure our schools and colleges are properly funded and fit for the 21st Century and the arrival of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need less initiative-itis on education, with a bit of funding tinkering here and there, and a much more strategic view on what education policy and funding should be.

Unsung Heroes

The Conservative Party is full of unsung heroes and one of those is Nonie Bouverat, who most of this site’s readers will have never heard of.  Mrs Bouverat is Chief Executive Officer of the Conservative Foundation, one of whose primary tasks is to raise funds to provide low income parliamentary candidates with bursaries.

This is something I have fought for a long time, and was delighted when Lord Feldman made an initial announcement about this at the 2015 Party Conference.  The website of the Conservative Foundation does not even mention Bouverat, yet it is she who has done so much to get this bursary scheme off the ground.

If the bursary scheme was developed to include supporting councillors and Party members, we could help ensure that low-income members could get a fair deal when they got involved in the Party, especially when standing for elections or travelling to events. Hats off to Bouverat and the Foundation. I hope it goes from strength to strength.

Centre for Rocket Studies

What has happened to the Centre for Policy Studies?  Under its remarkable new director, Robert Colvile, you rarely read a newspaper without hearing about the latest work of the CPS.  Though big under Margaret Thatcher, the CPS later had a few lean years, but now seems to be having a rocket-boosted resurgence, with policy pamphlets a plenty, alongside the great CapX online newspaper promoting Capitalism.

Their latest report, launched by the Prime Minister earlier this week, proposed a £1,000 a month ‘Universal Income’ to raise wages for the lower paid, and a Work Guarantee to ensure that everyone keeps 51p in every extra £1 they earn, partly bu cutting the Universal Credit Taper rate.  Alongside Tory Workers, the CPS are carving out a Conservative-minded, pro-Workers agenda. All power to the CPS-ers!

Universities and value for money

My Education Select Committee published a report this week in which we noted that 49 per cent of graduates are not in graduate jobs.  We need a rethink of Higher Education – more focused on graduate outcomes, more committed to skills and vocational education, and more devoted to really giving the disadvantaged a chance to climb the Higher Education Ladder of Opportunity.

Re-introducing means-tested maintenance grants would help, as well as more Degree Apprenticeships, as these students earn whilst they learn. The number of part-time students has declined by half over the past few years, so why not introduce flexible learning, by which students can hop on and off courses and build up credits? Why do we need the traditional, rigid three year structure?  Of course, excessive Vice Chancellor pay should be curtailed too. That must be a job for the new Office for Students.

1922 Drama (not)

I read every weekend in the Sunday newspapers that the end of the Tory world is nigh.  A week or so ago, we were told by the media that the 1922 meeting with Theresa May would take on the role of some show-trial court of the Prime Minister, with a ‘noose’ in the offing, and the distinguished Sir Graham Brady acting out the role of Judge Roland Freisler.

So I arrived at the meeting on my electronic Segway Rollerscoot (it is always a long walk otherwise to Committee Room 14) expecting great drama.  Many journalists were outside in Commons Committee Corridor with pens and pads – a bit like the old ladies with their knitting needles waiting around the French Revolution’s guillotines for the next execution.

As it happened, it was a good-natured affair, with Theresa May being quite frank about her views (whether you agreed with them or not). Sir Graham was more Rumpole of the Bailey than Roland, as MPs were called to give their views on the EU.  As I left this most august occasion, journos asked me what I thought. I could only reply, that the Prime Minister was ‘honest’.

Howard Flight: The best part of a week on, we can see that last week’s Budget was a popular one

The Chancellor has been fortunate that the public finances have improved substantially at a particularly convenient time.

Lord Flight is Chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund, and is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Philip Hammond has been fortunate that the public finances have improved substantially at a particularly convenient time. Economic growth has been revised up next year to 1.6 per cent; employment has been revised up, with 800,000 more jobs than forecast in 2023; wages will rise above inflation for the next five years.

The borrowing target has been met three years early, with the deficit now down to 1.9 per cent of GDP. The debt target has also been met three years early at a peak of 85 per cent of GDP. Borrowing is £11.6 billion lower than forecast at 1.2 per cent of GDP. This has improved significantly the scope of what the Budget can seek to address.

Overall public spending will increase by 1.2 per cent per annum, between 0.2 per cent and 0.4 per cent less than forecast growth. The improved tax yields have enabled the Prime Minister’s NHS commitment to be fully funded.

The Chancellor presented a pragmatic “micro” Budget, seeking to address virtually all of the issues which came up as needing attention. Yet perhaps its most important ingredient was a significant cut in taxation for the majority next April – increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 a year.

Local Authorities are getting an extra £1 billion of funding and business rates for retailers with rateable values below £51,000, will be cut by a third for two years. A further £1.7 billion each year will be provided to benefit working families on Universal Credit with the work allowance – the amount families can earn before losing credits – being increased by £1000 per annum.

A new two per cent digital services tax to insure that large digital firms pay a “fair share” of tax, is expected to raise £400 million per annum. Schools will get a further 400 million this year and defence will get a further £1 billion this year and next. There is also £160 million for counter-terror police. The national living wage will increase by nearly five per cent to £8.21. The national productivity investment fund will be increased to £37 billion and will be extended to 2024. Large roads will get £28.8 billion for 2020-25, and even potholes will get £420 million! PFI will be abolished, leaving a bill for £200 billion to be honoured.

There was a range of extra funding largely for small business – extending the annual investment allowance to £1 million; extending the start-up loans programme for 10,000 entrepreneurs; delivering the lowest corporation tax rate in the G20; keeping three million small businesses out of VAT; reducing the cost of taking on apprentices by halving the co-investment rate for non-levy payers; £121 million to support cutting-edge digital manufacturing; £78 million to fund electric motor innovations; £315 million in quantum technologies and £50 million for new Turing Fellowships.

Measures to help more people into home ownership include abolishing stamp duty retrospectively for first time buyers of all shared ownership properties of up to £500,000; an additional £500 million for the housing infrastructure fund; committing over £7.2 billion to a new help to buy equity loan scheme to support 110,000 new home buyers and the abolition of the housing revenue account cap controlling local authority borrowing for house building.

There are measures for those keen on the environment and more money for the Transforming Cities fund. Remarkably, the Chancellor has addressed virtually all the issues of concern to citizens and, as a result, I think, the best part of a week on, that this has proved to be a very popular Budget. The one important reform it has not addressed is the confiscatory rates of stamp duty on larger properties in London and the South East. This had led to a freezing up of the market – bad for revenues and for economic mobility.

Tom Clougherty: Make Work Pay. A new agenda from the CPS for fairer taxes – including an end to pernicious marginal rates.

If one of a couple claiming the marriage allowance becomes a higher rate taxpayer, there is a 23,800 per cent effective marginal tax rate on the penny that pushes them over the threshold.

Tom Clougherty is Head of Tax at the Centre for Policy Studies.

We often hear that the political tide has turned since the financial crisis, and that the British public are in the mood for higher taxes and bigger government. Yet a new YouGov poll for the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) paints a rather different picture. We find that only 17 per cent think people in the UK pay too little tax. What’s more, only 21 percent think that the official top rate of tax – 45p on incomes over £150,000 – is too low.

Another striking finding came from asking people to choose between different aims for the tax system. Twenty-three per cent said the goal should be to raise as much money as possible for public services; a quarter said redistribution from rich to poor was the key. But the most popular option by a clear margin, with 35 per cent support, was “to provide people with the strongest incentives to work”.

None of this suggests much of a mandate for hard-left government. On the other hand, it does suggest that the central theme of my new report for the Centre for Policy Studies – Make Work Pay: A New Agenda for Fairer Taxes – is one that resonates with the public.

Here’s the context: we all know that Britain is experiencing a “jobs miracle”; that employment is at a record high, while unemployment is at an historic low. We’re also all aware that wage growth has been sluggish (at best) since the financial crisis, while the cost of living has rocketed up people’s list of concerns.

The goal of my research for the CPS was therefore to come up with ways of putting more money in people’s pockets – but not by going down the usual route of government handouts or heavy-handed market intervention. Instead, the focus would be on making work pay – first by ensuring that everyone could earn a basic minimum before they had to pay any tax at all; and then by ensuring that they always got to keep at least 51p of every additional £1 they earned.

Clearly, the Government has already made great strides on that first point with its policy of raising the personal allowance. But we too often forget that millions of those supposedly “taken out of tax” are still paying National Insurance – a second income tax in everything but name. I suggest it’s time to right that wrong by establishing a new “universal working income” – a combined £12,000 threshold for income tax and National Insurance, which would allow people to earn £1,000 a month completely tax free.

This would be significantly more generous than the government’s current plan – to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 next year, while only lifting the National Insurance threshold in line with inflation. Compared with the current tax system, the universal working income would give anyone earning more than £12,000 an extra £459 a year of spending power. But it would also cut taxes for the 2.4 million people who currently only pay National Insurance – helping to make work pay for those on the lowest incomes.

I realise that my second point – that people should never lose more than 49p of the next pound they earn in tax – might not sound like much. After all, even if you factor in National Insurance, the headline top rate of tax in the UK is “only” 47 percent.

Yet in reality, this principle – which I call “the work guarantee” – is violated at numerous pinch points in the tax system. The effective marginal tax rate on earnings between £100,000 and £123,700 is 62 per cent, thanks to the withdrawal of the personal allowance. Someone with three children and £50,000 of income will face an effective rate of 67 per cent on the next pound they earn, as a result of the high income child benefit charge. And a couple claiming the marriage allowance face losing hundreds of pounds if one of them becomes a higher rate taxpayer – as things stand, there’s a 23,800 per cent effective marginal tax rate on the penny that pushes them over the threshold.

Fortunately, there are simple – and relatively inexpensive – solutions to all these problems: the marriage allowance could be replaced by a more generous “family responsibility allowance” aimed at married couples with young children or other care responsibilities; the high-income child benefit charge could be levied at a much lower rate; and the withdrawal of the personal allowance could simply be abolished, with the 45p threshold lowered from £150,000 to £100,000 (and then linked to inflation) to minimise any revenue loss.

But we can’t talk about making work pay without also thinking about those trying to make the transition from welfare into work. After all, those at the bottom of the income distribution – who may pay tax on their earnings while also having their benefits withdrawn – often see less reward for their labour than anyone else. And while Universal Credit certainly represents a big improvement on the legacy benefits system, it doesn’t fully solve this problem: someone subject to income tax, National Insurance, and the Universal Credit taper will still face an effective marginal tax rate of 75 percent. That can hardly be described as making work pay.

To ensure that the benefits system does not take away what the tax system gives, my report therefore also advocates bold action on Universal Credit, suggesting that the taper – the rate at which benefits are withdrawn against each pound of post-tax earnings over any work allowance – should be cut from 63p to 50p. This would give a huge boost to the lowest earners, while also giving them a strong incentive to increase their hours and make progress in the workplace.

This may, I suppose, sound a bit like a policy wish list – and an expensive one at that. All told, the reforms outlined in my report would cost up to £13.5 billion, with the lion’s share going to raise the National Insurance threshold and cut the Universal Credit taper rate. (The cost could be covered by a move to ISA-style pension tax relief, reforms to National Insurance, and a range of other savings that will be detailed in full in a forthcoming CPS report.)

But while it’s true that each of the proposals I’ve outlined here would be a good thing in its own right, taken together they add up to something much bigger – to a new approach to tax and welfare reform organised around a single, universal principle: that government should do everything in its power to ensure that work always pays.

The polling we carried out as part of my research makes clear that this agenda would be popular: 76 per cent of those polled supported the idea of the universal working income (against 9 percent opposed), while 61 percent backed the work guarantee (against 18 percent who disagreed).

Ultimately, though, making work pay is about much more than political popularity: it’s about a fairer deal for middle-class families; it’s about people being able to work harder and longer without the taxman punishing them for it; and it’s about letting the poorest workers keep more of their hard-earned cash. It is – as Lord Saatchi wrote in the foreword to my report – about giving people more control over their finances and over their lives. And that is surely an appropriate goal for any Conservative Government to pursue.

George Freeman: There was much to cheer in the Budget. But now we need an inspiring programme for growth.

At the moment, we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Corbyn, to keep us in office.

George Freeman MP is Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum and The Big Tent Ideas Festival, and is MP for Mid-Norfolk.

On Monday, the Chancellor announced that “austerity is coming to an end”. Politically, there was a lot to cheer in this Budget – some good news and headlines for struggling high streets, our crucial Universal Credit reform, NHS workers and the vast majority of constituents who rely on public services. Furthermore, there were many helpful retail pledges for colleagues in marginal seats. Given the Brexit divisions and infighting, we badly needed some good news.

But if we are going to end the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes since the war, the central question for our future is this: how can we get back to the 2.5-3 per cent growth that we enjoyed pre-Brexit? Before the EU Referendum, we were one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and the G7. Now we’re one of the slowest-growing.

The Budget invites the public to judge us on different metrics – no longer on our commitment to balance the books (abandoned) or reduce the debt (still growing), but on our ability to “end austerity”. People will now need to feel tangible improvements and see how Brexit can be a catalyst for much higher growth and prosperity.

Because this Budget won’t be decided on the comment pages of broadsheets. It will be decided on the ground.  By parents chatting at the school gates. Families looking after their ageing relatives in care homes. Commuters stuck in traffic jams because the housing has come, but the infrastructure hasn’t. Or the millions standing on trains every morning who’ve shelled out £2,000 for a season ticket and feel ripped off.

I no longer advise the Prime Minister, but here’s what I’d say if I still did. We need to remind people that every public sector pound has to be earned before it is spent, and that we need a more inspiring programme of business-led growth to drive prosperity and opportunity.  This means some big changes.

First, accelerating our transition from a service economy to an innovation nation.  Innovation is key to our driving up productivity, prosperity, inward investment and exports. We won’t escape debt with growth at 1.5 per cent and low productivity.  We need a renaissance of enterprise and innovation.  Such buccaneers as James Dyson and Richard Branson have done more to transform this country’s prospects than any government department ever will.  We need to stop the business-bashing and promote entrepreneurship and innovation. While the UK is still a crucible of start-up entrepreneurship, the engine is not yet humming: we have too many start-ups that are never scaled up, too little of our innovation funded by the City and too little that is taken global by British companies. We need a new national mission. We must be the innovation nation.

Second, tangible access to new markets for our innovation.We can’t just do research.  We need to innovate, manufacture and trade.  If Brexit means anything, it surely means an opportunity to go global. But that can’t mean importing cheap food and cheap clothes from sweatshops. We need to be exporting our innovation. The UK should be using every tool possible to unlock access to the fastest emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

For 40 years our whole economy has been geared to our being a European services economy. Why don’t we make Brexit the moment to embrace a new global strategy for higher growth through exporting technology and innovation into emerging markets? If the opportunity is properly seized, we could use our Industrial Strategy and public sector innovation to make Britain a crucible of new technology scale up and financing through the City.

We could then use our aid budget and global soft power in emerging markets to grow our exports and trade links with the fastest growing economies. Why don’t we offer some of the fastest emerging countries where we have a strong historic links a deeper Aid, Trade and Security Development Partnership?

Third, harnessing the public sector as a test bed of innovation. We’ll never export our innovation if we’re not using it ourselves. Innovation can’t be just about making a lucky few in the City rich beyond their wildest dreams. In order for us to be a test bed for new technology, we need to put enterprise and innovation at the heart of the public sector.  If we want to lead the world in digital health, we won’t do it unless the NHS is already a pioneer. You can have as many digital health clusters in Shoreditch as you like. But if the NHS isn’t testing and buying it, we will never become the innovation nation we need to be. Building, financing and growing these little start-ups into serious businesses of scale. The problem of the austerity era was thinking that our problems could be solved by cutting things. Actually, the only way our problems can be solved is by growing things.

Fourth, empowering local leaders to innovate more. Innovation can’t be ordered from on high. It comes from people having the power to make decisions themselves. That’s why we need to embrace bolder economic localism. Let’s remember that our national economic performance is made up of hundreds of local economies, all of which need to be growing faster. Another five years of ever-tighter spending controls from the Treasury risks undermining local growth and innovation.  Instead of delaying essential local infrastructure holding our growth hubs back, why not let them raise infrastructure bonds in the international capital markets and embrace bold ideas like integrated track and train mutuals which invests users money into better services?

Fifth, a new model of Treasury incentives. Too often, Whitehall’s funding orthodoxy rewards failure.  If you deliver more for less in the public sector we give you…less!   And give more to those failing.  If you ran a business like that it would be bust.  And depressing to work in. It’s no wonder that public sector leaders are so dispirited.  Many are leaving.  We need them to stay.  So why don’t we send a signal to encourage them, be bold and embrace a new model of incentives-based funding which rewards successful local service leaders for delivering efficiency and productivity? We need a new approach based on a radical idea: if an area reduces the deficit quicker than Whitehall’s average we should let them keep 50 per cent of the savings to re-invest.  Why not the same on growth? If councils grow their tax base, why not let them keep 50 per cent for local services?

Our choice as a nation is clear. Do we timidly manage our decline? Or do we set out a bold plan a brighter future? At the moment we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Jeremy Corbyn, to keep us in office.

For a majority of voters, keeping Corbyn out and delivering Brexit are not good enough answers.  We need to show voters that this is the path to something more inspiring.  We need to start setting out a bold vision for Conservatism in the twenty-first century.