Friday, 17 June 2011

Rewarding contribution, not worklessness.

As the MP for Haslingden & Hyndburn I meet, and deal with the cases of many constituents on a wide range of issues. It’s a privilege and one of the things I love most about my job. However, there are a few people I meet who are not taking responsibility for themselves, leaving the rest of the community to pick up the pieces. It just isn’t right.

Ed Miliband acknowledged in his speech on responsibility in the 21st Century earlier this week that the Labour Party, during the last election, was seen by some as one that primarily represented people who were ripping off the rest of us. Some of those at the very top of society, and some of those on benefits were not acting responsibly and were shirking their duties. From bankers who caused the financial crisis taking massive bonuses while taxpayers paid for their failure, to some people who abusing the welfare system because they were able to work but didn’t.

I was pleased that Ed Miliband has pledged that next Labour Government will be one that rewards contribution, not worklessness. As you may know, I voted against the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill this week, along with most of my Labour colleagues. This is not because I don’t support the attempts to build on Labour’s plans to make those who can work, work. I voted against it as it would make it harder for individuals across the country to be responsible, to do the right thing. It undermines childcare support for those wanting to work; it cuts help for the most vulnerable such as those who live in care homes - who receive support to help them get out and about; and it takes money away from those recovering from illnesses like cancer, who have paid their taxes when they could and should be get something back when they need it.

However, rather than looking solely at need, which has tended to be our focus in the past, if we are to improve the welfare state properly, I agree we must also reward people who are responsible and contribute, for instance, through volunteering, working against anti-social behaviour and foster parenting, as well as protecting those in need. As Ed Miliband said ‘we will be a Party that rewards contribution, not worklessness’.

In terms of those at the top, speaking to constituents following the financial crisis, I share your anger that the banking industry has been able to get away with massive rewards for themselves whilst at the same time putting the economy at risk. In future, for those highest paid in our society, we need to ensure greater accountability and transparency at the top. For instance the Labour Party would require boardrooms to publish the difference in pay between the highest paid and the average employee.

In summary, as Ed Miliband stressed, what builds a community and a country is a sense of shared responsibility, common endeavour and big national ambitions. Responsibility is not to government, it is to each other.