Iain Duncan Smith has argued that the introduction of a ‘Universal Basic Income’ (UBI) to protect the incomes of poor and vulnerable people during the Coronavirus crisis is “unaffordable”.
Writing in the Telegraph, the widely hated former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said any suggestion that UBI would alleviate the financial struggles faced by low-income households is incorrect and “won’t make any difference to poverty in this country.”
Sir Duncan Smith argued that providing households with a guaranteed monthly income, regardless of means or circumstances, would “disincentivise work” and cost an “astronomic amount of money”.
It is suggested that UBI would cost the Treasury around £260bn a year and should not be considered as a viable fix for Britain’s poverty crisis.
Sir Iain’s comments come after the Government announced a wide-spread package of measures to counter the spread of Coronavirus costing more than £330 billion, despite ministers insisting that the Government is sticking by its fiscal rules.
“One proposal being pushed around at the moment is the redundant idea of a Universal Basic Income,” said Sir Iain.
“Let me say now, it’s unaffordable, impractical, produces massive disincentives for people to work and most importantly won’t make any difference to poverty in this country.
“And even if that weren’t enough, this would not be the moment for such a massive upheaval of our welfare system.”
His comments comes as both poverty campaigners and political figures argue that UBI is perhaps the best way to protect the finances of households affected by the Cornavirus pandemic.
Speaking at Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday, the SNP’s leader at Westminster Ian Blackford MP called on the UK Government to introduce UBI to “ensure people can support their families, pay their bills and keep a roof over their heads.”
He added: “Thousands of people are already losing their jobs. Millions are facing the same threat. They need reassurance and support – and they need an income guarantee.
“In the last financial crisis, the banks were bailed out – but ordinary people were not. The UK government must not repeat history and leave families struggling to get by.
“The UK government has the finances and the powers to protect people’s incomes – and provide them with peace of mind. An emergency universal Income scheme would do just that.
“I urge the Prime Minister to deliver this support as part of a wide-ranging financial package to protect the incomes of all our people.”
Sir Iain instead called for the taper rate of Universal Credit, which ultimately decides how much an individual can earn before benefits are reduced, to be lowered so as to “put a floor underneath employees as government steps in and takes the strain”.
Labour leadership candidate and Shadow Business Secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, has also called for “a fixed payment made to all, providing everyone with a basic minimum income of at least the real living wage, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic”.
She added: “This country is facing an unprecedented shock: it’s time to move mountains. We must actually do whatever it takes to keep people safe and financially supported.
“People deserve nothing less than the same level of reassurance that the government has already afforded to business.”