Blair Pitches Welfare Reform at Middle Class

Article excerpt

TONY BLAIR, the shadow Home Secretary, yesterday stepped up the battle of ideas to capture "Middle England" with a keynote analysis of an updated welfare state under Labour. Geared to generating fairly paid employment, not benefit dependency, it would be a "helping hand to success and achievement throughout life", he said.

The Labour leadership front-runner said Labour would retain the values of Beveridge's welfare state - but had to be more ambitious. "We must make welfare not just an ambulance service for when things go wrong."

Wading into the territory sought by Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, who spoke on Tuesday of "enlightened Conservatism which promotes civil bonds", Mr Blair said: "Every word he utters has the fear of electoral failure written all over it."

While avoiding specific policies - still less the start- up costs of such a switch of approach - Mr Blair said a future Labour government had to seek to end disincentives to taking paid work. Beveridge had assumed a man would spend his entire career in one firm and that a woman's place was in the home.

He would ask the Labour- sponsored Social Justice Commission to study the Australian JET scheme (jobs, education and training) which had been highly successful with single mothers.

Labour would examine the disincentive of loss of benefit for jobless people who trained for more than 21 hours. Other planned initiatives would include examining ways of encouraging women to stay in work even though their partners were unemployed. …