Benefits: Revive 'principle of contribution' says Labour


Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman says growth in the economy needs to be addressed as part of welfare reform

Labour wants to "strengthen the old principle of contribution" in the benefits system, the shadow work and pensions secretary says.

Many people "feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back", Liam Byrne wrote in the Observer.

He also said "people who work and contribute to their community" should get priority in social housing.

He criticised recent tax and welfare changes, but David Cameron told the Sun the moves were about "fairness".

In his article, Mr Byrne criticised the coalition for failing to support "working families and those in real need", insisting that Labour's approach to reforming welfare would be "very different".

Change needed

"Instead of seeking to divide people, we want to ensure everyone plays their part so we can rebuild Britain together," he said.

He continued: "There are lots of people right now who feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back. That should change.

"We should start by letting councils give priority in social housing allocations to those who work and contribute to their community."

BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said Labour had been under pressure to say what it would do to overhaul the welfare system, after criticising government policies.


Will changes to benefits be a key issue at the next general election? We may be two years away from a national poll but some politicians are already mentioning the year 2015.

Today Labour was outlining its ideas on reforms in one newspaper as the prime minister was hailing his in another.

Opposition parties are normally cautious of revealing too many policies before the campaign proper begins.

Comments by the chancellor in the wake of the Philpott case may have raised the temperature of the debate, but the welfare bill is about £200bn and is a significant part of the government spend.

As long as the country's finances remain under pressure, so too will anyone tackling the welfare question.

The party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, said it was "not surprising" people were concerned about the welfare system and defended Labour's record on welfare reform.

She said the party was looking at wider changes based on the contributory principle as part of its policy review.

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We're also, ahead of the general election, putting forward three principles.

"One, that work should pay; secondly, that there should be an obligation to take work; and thirdly, that there should be support through a contributory principle for people putting into the system as well as taking out.

"I think that's the discussion and the debate we're engaging in up to the general election."

She said the results of the review would "come to fruition" in Labour's next manifesto.

Last week, Mr Byrne told the BBC he was looking at helping two groups in particular - working parents and those who are unemployed and over 50.

He said there were many women who had paid into the system but who then did not receive help with childcare to allow them to go back to work.

For those looking for work over the age of 50, he said although some may have paid up to £60,000 more in national insurance than they get out, they were not receiving any extra help to get back into work.

The case of unemployed Mick Philpott, jailed last week for the manslaughter of six of his children in a fire, has led some politicians to comment on whether the state should subsidise large families.

Mr Philpott, who had 17 children, received thousands of pounds a year in child benefit, as well as the income support and wages paid to his wife and mistress.

'Support children'

Asked if there should be a cap on the number of children the state would support through benefits, Ms Harman said: "I don't think that the state should be dictating family size but I do think that the state should support children."

"Rather than trying to encourage women to have children or discourage them from having children, I think it's important to actually support children who are born into a family. But also to make sure women and men are in a position to make proper choices about their families."

Income tax changes

The changes to income tax coming into effect on 6 April include:

  • A cut in tax rate from 50% to 45% for those earning more than £150,000
  • The 40% tax rate now starts at an income of £41,450. Previously it was £42,475
  • An increase in the tax-free personal allowance to £9,440, from £8,105
  • The amount of tax-free income pensioners can earn remaining frozen at £10,500

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron told the Sun the welfare system had lost its way and benefits had become a "lifestyle choice" for some - causing resentment.

He insisted it was "crazy" certain claimants could have a bigger income on benefits than if they had a job.

"So this month we are making some big changes," he added.

"They are changes that have a simple principle at their heart: we are restoring the fairness that should lie at the very heart of our tax and welfare systems."

This week, a series of changes to benefits and taxes have come into force.

Most tax credits and working age benefits are being increased by 1% - below the rate of inflation - while pensioners are getting a larger rise in the state pension, which is going up by 2.5% to £110 a week.

On Saturday, the personal allowance - which is the amount that most people can earn before they pay income tax - rose to £9,440.

And the top rate of income tax was also reduced from 50p in the pound to 45p for people with incomes of more than £150,000.

Also from 6 April, the amount pensioners can earn without paying tax will no longer rise with inflation, giving rise to accusations of a "granny tax".


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    "There are many posting here of the woe is me I cannot get a job.Well you should have paid more attention and invested effort in your own future."

    A bit simplistic - there are graduates out there who can't get a job.I know because I've met some of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    Phillpott, Phillpott, Phillpott.. The £25,000 benefit cap has already stopped this kind of abuse from happening, but if you not happy with that why not look at the long term unemployed who keep on producing kids, not one or 2 but scores of them. I think most people would back that, not the blind attack on everyone on benefits for what ever reason. Its time to start thinking not blind reaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    So, the middle classes lose a nett £100 a year to pay for the LibDem's personal allowance change, and the pensioners pay for a tax break for millionaires.

    Are we still "all in this together"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    3 Hours ago
    "That's all very well for those who can contribute. I have autism, mental health issues and chronic pain, and only managed to work ....."

    Clearly you can use a computer, you can type, you are literate - all skills that would enable you to work from home. Scan the jobs market, you'll be surprised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    I private rent in the dodgy area of Town, close to my work and cheap. Now I live amongst the white and /or indigenous unemployed. From what I see of these ppl I can not see anyone wanting to give them a job.
    I don't see any respect to others. I don't see the concept of being in a role. I don't see any personal self discipline.
    I do see a lot of sports wear and no jogging, spitting at Post men.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    the onus is on the job seeker to find work if that was changed so the job centre gave the unemployed a list of employers taking on and an appointment time to visit that employer and impose sanctions against the job seeker who did not attend or refused a job offer the benefit bill would come down . I took a job I didn't like and after a while found that it was ok after all .

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    UKL_UK Libertarian
    1 HOUR AGO
    Picture an unemployed, young, uneducated, homeless, man. He receives charity from a church group, a roof over his head, a shower & meal. If he comes to me, a restaurant owner, offering his services for £3p/h... Why would you prevent him from that - denying him any wages at all?
    =====YOU should prevent it by offering minimum wage, not exploit for cheap labour

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    It's a problem with mature capitalism. Full employment is not in the interests of employers. The law of supply and demand means the system needs unemployment to create a pool of workers and keep wages down.

    In effect, we are working and paying taxes to maintain this unemployment and to subsidise immigration - both designed to keep our wages down.

    Who's winning from all this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Labour has done more than any other party to sever the links between contribution and benefit that have caused the mess yet here they are jumping belatedly on the bandwagon.

    Next perhaps they will be urging low taxes, business growth, border controls and repatriation of powers they gave away to the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 688.

    #669. where am I

    The Tory "Right to buy" was the biggest policy bribe for votes in recent history.

    It has resulted in the many of the housing problems we have today, including the lack of affordable housing & the the resultant rise in housing benefits which, again, the Tory core voters are the main beneficiaries of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 687.

    Labours plan is similar in philosophy to the conservatives and will create as much division . When you look at incapacity benefit , 1.7M of 2.4M are told they can work, thats a big number and 400K told they can do limited work . No matter what the arguments thats a huge number . As regards tax , Labour's top rate was 40% throughout most of its government apart from a few months at 50% .

  • rate this

    Comment number 686.

    651. Alan

    Churches are some of Britain's most generous charitable organisations. You only need to look at the foodbank network to see examples of Christians helping the poor and needy.

    Not all Labour voting areas are poor. You only need to look at how they've been winning council seats in some of the more upmarket parts of the big cities in recent years to be proven wrong on that point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 685.

    Whilst I accept the need for a welfare safety net and that there is genuine poverty in this country (much amongst the working poor), it does annoy me that the same people who messed around in school and bullied those like me who wanted to learn now expect us to fund their lives of leisure. Kids in Africa would walk miles for an education of the quality of that which our teens take for granted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 684.

    Polly, any fool can get pregnant with an unwanted child. It just takes a few biological pre-conditions and finding the right orifice. Planning to have a child just isn't on the agenda sometimes, let alone social responsibility for their upbringing and welfare. Used to think this was a male attitude, but fecklessness isn't sex linked so women need to be more responsible too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 683.

    Never being able to explain away the lax immigrations controls and super-generous welfare payments, I think I see what's happening. We no longer need an underclass on benefits to provide lots of youngsters to bolster the UK’s future economy, because we have now enough immigrants, with the promise of even more. That underclass to get out there and into those remaining jobs – fast.

  • rate this

    Comment number 682.

    @101. Richard H

    Just to reiterate again, this crisis is not down to poor people claiming benefits but mainly down to a de-regulated financial system where the elite evade and avoid tax, and the banks siphon off money from the system.


    Too simplistic a view, but bravo for coming out with rhetoric that the BBC just loves to hear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 681.

    I have a question for all those people saying that benefit claimants don't deserve support. Will you still feel the same if fate deals you a similar blow and you lose your own job? There seem to be many who assume that their job/lifestyle is secure for life; that they are somehow immune from misfortune and will never need support themselves. Yes some claimants abuse the system, but not all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 680.

    This has to be the least talented ,most discredited administration in the last 40 years - even Thatch didn't manage to plumb these depths.

    Cameron's nothing more than an extension of Angela Knight's former role.
    Propagandist and protector of the wealthy powerful elites that laugh all the way to their banks in Geneva, Turks & Caicos and the BVI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 679.

    622. RICK ATKINSON. Its just impossible to get away from the fact that Labours core vote comes from people who claim benefits/work for the state. They are never ever going to face up to the simple fact that you cant get something for nothing, so why bother listening to this utter drivel.

    And who are the Tories pandering to, given that the population is ageing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 678.

    614. ludwigvb
    "Benefits should only be payed to those that have payed into the system ..."

    I suppose by your 'logic' that only those trained as Doctors,Nurses should be treated on the NHS.

    Sorry, WHAT? Ludvig... there is no logic in your statement at all. Tax and NI pay for the NHS... not the doctors and nurses (except through their taxes like those who pay tax)


Page 29 of 63


More Politics stories



  • Firth of Forth bridgeWhat came Firth?

    How the Forth was crossed before the famous bridge

  • Petrol pumpPumping up

    Why are petrol prices rising again?

  • Image of George from Tube CrushTube crush

    How London's male commuters set Chinese hearts racing

  • Elderly manSuicide decline

    The number of old people killing themselves has fallen. Why?

  • TricycleTreasure trove

    The lost property shop stuffed with diamonds, bikes... and a leg

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.