Full text: Ed Miliband’s speech to the launch of IPPR’s “Condition of Britain” report


Speaking at the launch of IPPR’s “Condition of Britain” report, Ed Miliband said:

Along with Rachel Reeves and the Head of Labour’s Policy Review, Jon Cruddas, I am delighted to be here with you launching the IPPR’s Condition of Britain report.

For years, IPPR has done brilliant work to help us respond to the challenges Britain faces.

And they have done it again with this important report.

So I want to thank the report’s authors Kayte Lawton, Graeme Cooke and Nick Pearce for the work they have done.

And all those – voluntary group leaders, campaigners and community organisers – many of whom are here today who helped IPPR with their work.

The issue that motivates this report is the same one that brought me into politics.

A belief that the deep inequalities of income, wealth and power in our country are damaging, wrong and can be tackled.

In each generation, we must seek to tackle these inequalities.

And today this belief means there is one question, over-riding all others, that matters to the future of this country.

It is a question that goes beyond one party, one government or one election.

It is a question that countries all around the world are grappling with:

How can we make the country work not just for a few at the top but for the security and success of ordinary families?

When I went round the country in the recent elections, so many people told me the country didn’t work for them.

They were talking about the basic fundamentals of work, family and community.

Things many people at the top of our society just take for granted.

The basic bargain that if you work hard there would be a degree of security, an ability to make ends meet, has been broken.

Low paid, low skill, insecure work that doesn’t give people any sense of fulfilment: that is the reality for millions of people.

That is not good enough for me.

And it is not good enough for Britain.

For the first time in generations, parents from all types of background, fear that their children will do worse than them.

That is not good enough for me.

And it is not good enough for Britain.

And all round this country people who are doing the right thing don’t seem to be rewarded anymore.

That is not good enough for me.

And it is not good enough for Britain.

For my Party, in everything we do, in every reform we make, in every decision we take, in opposition and in government, our job is to tackle this challenge.

And no vested interest, no orthodoxy, should stop us changing the country for this cause.

The importance of this report is that it shows there is a distinctive and compelling answer to addressing this issue, in particular when it comes to our welfare state.

This report shows we can change things at a time of scarcity.

Because we know the next Labour government won’t have money to spend.

It starts with work.

And a welfare system that helps all our young people to succeed.

For decades we have known about the problem of young people with no or poor qualifications entering adulthood, facing little chance of being able to get on.

But it hasn’t been addressed.

Indeed the perversity of the system means that the one thing we most discourage those young people from doing is getting the skills they need for a decent career.

Because we tell them that they should sign on for benefits not sign up for proper training.

And we say, at the same time, to those who go to university that they are entitled to financial support to improve their skills and qualifications.

There can be no better example of a divided country which seems to value the 50 per cent of young people who go to university and fails to value the untapped talents of the 50 per cent of young people who don’t.

It is about people like Danny who I talked to yesterday.

I asked him whether the Job Centre had been good enough at getting him in to training.

He said it had been completely useless.

And that’s because of the rules and the system.

How can he have faith in the system when that happens?

It is no wonder that people feel that politics doesn’t serve them.

It is not good enough for me.

And it is not good enough for Britain.

We can’t succeed as a country with unskilled young people going from benefits to low paid work and back again without proper skills.

Because it doesn’t give business the productive workforce they need.

And it costs the taxpayer billions of pounds in extra welfare spending and lower productivity.

So we’re going to change it.

What the proposals in this report show is that we can address these issues and reform welfare in a way that is progressive not punitive.

And a Labour government will get young people to sign up for training, not sign on for benefits.

So for 18 to 21 year olds, we will replace Job Seekers’ Allowance with a new youth allowance.

An allowance dependent on young people being in training

And targeted at those who need it most.

These are the right principles:

Britain’s young people who don’t have the skills they need for work should be in training not on benefits.

We should abolish the limit on training that has for decades held young people back.

And to pay for these changes in tough times, we should say young people will be entitled to financial support only if they really need it.

Assessed on the basis of parental income, as we do for those young people who go to university.

This is the right thing to do and it doesn’t cost money, it saves money.

So with this proposal and others, this report says to those worried about work in Britain that there are answers.

And we can restore the link between hard work and reward.

And to properly reward hard work and effort, we need contribution to be at the heart of our welfare system too.

We talk about the problem of people getting something for nothing.

And we are right to do so.

But there is a problem that politicians rarely talk about of people getting nothing for something.

How many times have I heard people say: “for years and years, I paid in and then when the time came and I needed help I got nothing out”?

Rewarding contribution was a key principle of the Beveridge Report.

And it is a key intuition of the British people.

But it is a principle that has been forgotten by governments of both parties.

Aside from pensions, less than one tenth of social security spending now goes on entitlements that are based on contribution.

We should not allow the contributory principle to recede still further.

Instead, we should strengthen it.

That’s why as one example, the next Labour government will change the way Job Seekers’ Allowance works.

To make sure that someone who has been working for years and years, paying in to the system, gets more help if they lose their job, than someone who has been working for just a couple of years.

And we will pay for it not by spending more money in social security.

But by extending the length of time people need to have worked to qualify.

And this report faces up to the tough reality that my party understands.

We won’t be able to ensure the security and success of ordinary families in the years ahead with higher benefit spending.

Instead, we must do so by tackling the problems at source.

That’s why we have set out proposals to tackle low pay, increasing the minimum wage.

Saving money on benefits.

Supporting childcare to help mums and dads get back to work.

Reducing the costs of worklessness.

And this report shows also how we can start to tackle a historic problem in Britain, a problem which has developed over decades: a housing benefit bill going up and up and investment in housing itself falling further and further.

Higher housing benefit spending is not a sign of progressive success.

It is a sign of failure.

And again in this report shows the right vision for how we can start to turn this round.

Moving from benefits to bricks by empowering local authorities to use the money they save on housing benefit and reinvest it to help build homes.

And this report is right also that if we are to tackle the generational challenge our country faces of inequality, we cannot do so simply by pulling levers at the centre.

We can’t make the country work for people again by relying on Whitehall and Westminster.

We can only do it by devolving power.

Whether it is getting work for our young people.

Creating the jobs of the future.

Supporting business.

And in public services:

Giving more powers to parents in shaping the future of their schools.

And patients in shaping the future of their hospitals.

People-powered public services.

That is why devolving power is a key part of this report and other reports that are being published in the coming months.

Anyone looking to bring change to Britain today is confronted with a huge problem.

People’s desire for change is enormous, just as it was at the time of the Beveridge Report in the 1940s.

But their belief that this change is possible has been profoundly shaken.

There is a deep sense of pessimism about whether Westminster politics, or anyone within a million miles of it, has any of the answers.

People see a country that doesn’t work for them and hasn’t done so for a long time.

And they believe nobody really gets it.

And it is not just that people think the problems are huge, it is that they don’t believe they can be solved because of the financial challenges the country faces.

I know we must meet the cause of our time, the cause I came into politics for, while confronting a fiscal situation the like of which we have not seen for generations.

The result of a financial crash the like of which none of us have ever seen.

What this report shows is that we do have answers.

Distinctive answers that are right for this time.

Above all the situation means we can’t just hope to make do and mend.

We can’t just borrow and spend money to paper over the cracks.

The old way of doing things won’t work anymore.

Instead, we need big, far-reaching reform.

Which means big changes, not big spending.

Reform that can reshape our economy, so that hard work is rewarded again.

Rebuild our society, so that the next generation does better than the last.

And change our country so that the British people feel it is run according to their values.

That kind of reform is going to be tough.

No one said it would be easy.

I know that.

And you know that.

But it is a cause worth fighting for.

It is the way we change Britain.

That is our mission.

That’s what the Condition of Britain teaches us.

And I congratulate IPPR on your report.

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