“What we need now is a joined-up campaign between both wings of the labour movement – industrial and political – that focuses on lifting incomes. Lifting pay, lifting pensions, and lifting social security.”
The following article is a published version of the speech given by Beth Winter MP at The World Transformed session on Universal Basic Income and the cost-of-living crisis.
The new Truss government has said we have been too focused on redistribution and not on growth. But on Friday, the Chancellor made announcement after announcement that redistributes – to the wealthy, including on bankers bonuses and corporation tax.
But most people up and down the country – in receipt of public pay, social security benefits or pensions have never benefited from any form of redistribution under this Tory Government. All they have experienced is pay freeze, benefits cap and a freeze on the triple lock.
I want to put one thing on the record in this meeting, before I start on Universal Basic Income (UBI). What we need now is a joined-up campaign between both wings of the labour movement – industrial and political – that focuses on lifting incomes. Lifting pay, lifting pensions, and lifting social security.
Tomorrow (September 26th) the conference discusses pay, and I hope the trade union policies on inflation-proofed pay rises and a £15 an hour minimum wage are adopted.
But on the subject of UBI I’m extremely proud and fortunate to be Welsh. Welsh Government, under the leadership of Mark Drakeford, has adopted the bold and progressive policy of the Basic Income pilot, launched in July this year, looking at new ways to guarantee incomes.
So how did we get to this point?
It is testament to the power of grassroots and collaborative campaigning and a government that will listen, cares and is committed to the principles of social justice, equality and democracy.
UBI Lab was established in Wales in 2020 and has achieved a great deal –
- the Senedd passed a motion calling for the Welsh Government to establish a UBI Trial.
- In the Senedd election, 105 candidates pledged support for UBI
- Future Generations Commissioner and crucially our First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, expressed support for a UBI pilot.
The campaign culminated in Welsh Government launching a basic income pilot.
It was a real honour to host a session here at TWT last year with Mark Drakeford himself, alongside Prof Guy Standing, where he set out his rationale and plan for the pilot in Wales to a packed audience.
What is the pilot?
All young care leavers – 500 anticipated throughout Wales, have the opportunity to take part.
It will run for three years with each member receiving a basic income payment of £1600 per month for 24 months. This will be accompanied by an individual support package.
A Technical Advisory group has been established to monitor and evaluate the pilot which includes Prof Michael Marmot, Prof Guy Standing and our Jonathan Williams from UBI Lab Wales.
The pilot does have limitations which Welsh Government accept. These relate to the limited sample size and the lack of geographic concentration. But the amount is significantly higher than any other basic income pilot globally and is broadly equivalent to the real living wage.
It will provide a test for the stated benefits of basic income, such as addressing poverty and unemployment and improving health and financial wellbeing. I hope it will lead to more pilots such as those proposed by Metro Mayors.
There is a Cross-Party Parliamentary and Local Government Working Group on UBI whose membership consists of MPs, Local Authority Councillors, Metro-Mayors, Peers and LGA Officers.
We’ve just published a letter to the Prime Minister calling on the UK government to set up a taskforce on UBI and launch pilots in all 4 nations.
I urge you to sign the letter, join the group, and whether in your own authority or council, see how you as elected representatives can move forward the discussion on UBI.
What’s the role of the Labour Party?
The Labour Party had a key role to play in Wales. It was a radical Labour leader in Wales who was willing to try the pilot.
We had leadership support in the UK previously. Our 2019 Manifesto included the following pledge –
‘we will explore other innovative ways of responding to low pay, including a pilot of Universal Basic Income.’
What we need is pressure now to commit to backing Welsh Labour and trialling this policy elsewhere – and I hope the Metro Mayors can do that – but also to situate political support within a wider radical policy agenda on incomes and working practice, including:
- Inflation proofed increase in wages, pensions and social security payments
- Universal Basic Services including Right to Food
- A four-day week
- Windfall taxes and Wealth taxes
- Public ownership of utilities
Such policies should be at the forefront of Labour Party policy, including in our next manifesto, and action is needed now if we are serious about overcoming poverty and inequality in our society.