The Bill marks a true revolution in how the Government administer welfare, with the roles and responsibilities of the state, business and individual citizens clearly defined for the first time.
Those who pioneered the welfare state at the turn of the last century intended it to be a short-term safety net for those in society who, for whatever reason, found themselves thrown on hard times. We Conservatives have long believed in the one nation principle of a hand up, not a handout when it comes to welfare, so through this reform Bill we seek to return Britain to a country that, once again, lives within its means and encourages aspiration among working people to get on and do well in life.
I am pleased to say that in Erewash we have bucked the national trend, with unemployment falling again this month to just 2.4%. Youth unemployment also continues to fall, and is now a third of what it was in May 2010. We have some fantastic employers in Erewash, such as FC Laser, which I recently visited. It is now investing in apprentices, helping our young people to earn while learning new skills on the job. That type of training is vital if we are to achieve a healthy, balanced economy, as it ensures a skilled workforce with a strong work ethic, making it less likely that they will need to rely on benefits or be out of work for an extended period.
Turning to social mobility, in Erewash we have a proud history of hard graft, whether in the manufacturing of Nottingham lace, Stanton Ironworks castings or railway wagons. Today, many of my constituents are still employed in a broad spectrum of industries that supply the country, and indeed the rest of the world, with top-quality goods and services. Put simply, they are hard-working people who do an honest day’s work.
Constituents often ask me why someone on benefits can get the same amount of money for doing nothing, and in some cases more, as they do for going to work day in, day out. I consider that to be unfair, and so do the Government, who have introduced a welfare cap to make the whole system fairer. Social mobility and a low welfare bill can be achieved only if going to work is an attractive option. We need to break the cycle of those who believe that it is okay to exist on benefits. We need to strengthen the links between businesses and schools to ensure that the example we set our children is that work is the right path for getting on and succeeding in life.
When I rose to deliver my maiden speech a week ago, I said that we needed to be bold in our vision for this country and that I would stick my head above the parapet for the good of my constituents, even if at times those decisions might be unpopular with some. I believe that the Government have a duty to support the most vulnerable in our society, but that we should also give working-age people the means and incentive to stand on their own two feet, independent of the state. By introducing measures such as the new national living wage and increasing the number of apprentice opportunities, we are doing just that. That is why I will support the Bill in the Division Lobby this evening.