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Iain Duncan Smith Addresses Conservative Society

Iain Duncan Smith Addresses Conservative Society

17 April 2017

With impressive fluency, Iain Duncan Smith demonstrated his commitment to reducing poverty in Britain and to successfully negotiating divorce from Europe in a packed Conservative Society meeting

Beginning by explaining his work with the Centre for Social Justice, he outlined his report ‘Breakdown Britain’ which analysed the root causes of poverty in December 2006. Working with small charitable groups to gather evidence, he identified five areas of concern: ‘Economic Dependence and Unemployment’, ‘Family Breakdown’, ‘Addiction’, ‘Educational Failure’ and ‘Indebtedness and the Voluntary Sector’. Focusing on the first of these, he discussed the problem of helping people materially out of poverty when the poverty line itself is constantly subject to change, but went on to explain the rationale behind his policy of Universal Credits to simplify an overly complex and complicated benefits scheme, where there were 35 official benefits and other elements added in: the risk perceived was often too great to go back to work.

Deflecting questions on the criticisms of the administrative competency of governmental bureaucracy in managing benefit change, he emphasised positive moves to help people back into work: the support of an advisor at the Job Centre, for example, who stays with a client now until they are earning enough to stay in work, and the work placement scheme which gives people on benefits much needed work experience. He noted that the problem is one of perennial worklessness, with as many as 1 in 5 households in 2010 having no wage-earner at all, and 1 in 10 having no wage-earner for at least two generations.

His words reflected his statement of 2010, that ‘A system that was originally designed to support the poorest in society is now trapping them in the very condition it was supposed to alleviate’ and he argued passionately that the government needs to establish where it actually helps people and where it does not so that they can become financially autonomous: ‘What does it need to do to get out of the arena?’

Mr Duncan-Smith also presented his views on family breakdown, that this causes low-levels of self worth which are passed down through generations and has a particularly grave effect on elderly people for whom people no longer take family responsibility. But he then moved on discuss what he perceives as a happier divorce from the EU. He stressed his belief that it does not make sense to be subject to laws made by the EU without voting rights and looked forward to Britain reclaiming voting rights in the WTO as an independent state. He views the future optimistically, arguing that other nation states trade with us more than we with them, particularly in agricultural goods, so free trade will be beneficial to them too. But, he noted the complexity of ‘Brexit’ and demanded careful scrutiny of the liabilities and assets of our relationship with the EU – not ‘back of the envelope figures’.

When questioned on his abrupt resignation last year and the comments of Nadine Dorries, Mr Duncan Smith remained adamant: he wanted to stop the chancellor (then George Osborne) ‘dead in his tracks’, to prevent any more money being taken from Universal Credits.

His words have provoked much further discussion within the student community. We thank him for his visit and for giving such a compelling talk.

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Iain Duncan Smith Addresses Conservative Society

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