Yesterday’s ‘Opposition Day’ debate in Parliament on ‘Working People’s Finances’ saw members from across the house consider how best to relieve financial pressure on households as we see the costs of living rise. Naturally, many MPs raised benefits and subsidies as appropriate measures to deal with a problem which is ostensibly financial.
While these measures have their place, we maintain that it is important to consider the basis of our structures, and to what extent the welfare state and other systems of social security honour and support families and communities.The strengthening of these fundamental associations are truly preventative and sustainable policy interventions.
During the debate, both Danny Kruger and Miriam Cates acknowledged the many successes of this Government’s welfare policy, including falling unemployment and higher wages. But they also suggested ‘covenantal’ reforms to tackle the presenting issue of the rising cost of living.
Danny highlighted distortions in the market that push prices up, namely, a lack of effective competition.
‘We have a small number of very large companies—house builders, supermarkets, water companies, energy companies—all of which act to distort markets and have negative effects, and ultimately to pass on high prices. …Fundamentally, however, we need more plural markets and more local production in homes, food and energy, which will empower local communities, help local economies, and keep down the cost of living.’
Similarly, Miriam highlighted the housing shortage, soaring public spending and the individualistic nature of our tax system which does not recognise households and their dependents, meaning some families on low and middle incomes can end up paying around 30% more tax than individuals living on their own.
‘We must find a solution for the sake of future generations. …We need a reset. We need to redesign our public spending and welfare state for modern life and modern demographics. I think we have already established that we cannot tax our way out of this. Of course, we should be trying to grow our way out of it, but we also need a fundamental redesign of the welfare state and public spending.’
Both speeches argued for the shifting of our structures onto a more stable and reliable footing, founded on trust between families and communities. That’s why we call for a new social covenant: an agreement, inherited from history and passed on to future generations, to sustain our common life.