On the Politics Show, Sunday 21 October 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Chris Grayling MP, Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary
JON SOPEL: We're joined now by the Conservative Spokesman on Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling, thank you very much for joining us, welcome to the Politics Show. We saw in the film there the concerns of people, the disability people and the woman Jo, we heard from about you taking a punitive approach. It's not appropriate is it.
CHRIS GRAYING: Well let's be clear. First of all this is carrot and stick. We've heard a lot about the stick. The carrot is a radical approach to getting people off welfare in to work, of a kind that's been used in the United States, in Australia, in the Netherlands. And the big difference to what's done in this country at the moment, is that you're talking about a long term programme of support, both after people are back in the work place as well as before. Paid for, by using the savings that you get from getting people off benefits and in to work and being able to reinvest that money in the support process that gets them from welfare in to work.
JON SOPEL: But hang on, you're talking about six hundred thousand people on top of what the government's target is. Now we've scoured your web site, we've spoken to your press office, we've looked at your speeches and yet, I still don't see how you get from 'a' to 'b'.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Okay, first of all this is a bit of a misnomer, we're not talking about 1.6 million people. In terms of the actual cash numbers, that are needed to pay for the removal of the couple penalty from the tax credit system, we're talking about going approximately 20% beyond where the government itself is going, in order to get the funds we need to do that. But, our aspiration goes far beyond that. It's simply we haven't committed savings beyond the point I've just described. I'd like to see a very substantial proportion of those 4.8 million people back in work.
There's been a big demand for employment in this country in the past few years, the government is always boasting to us about how many new jobs it's created. We've seen a big influx of migrant workers, and yet if you take one example, youth unemployment in the UK, it's higher than it was ten years ago. So we've got to do a better job of getting people who are stuck on incapacity benefit, back in to work.
JON SOPEL: Yeah, okay. Let's not quibble about the figures about whether it's an extra six hundred thousand or extra two hundred thousand. How, how do you get from 'a' to 'b'.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Well what's done in other countries is a rounded programme that takes somebody who is stranded on benefits, looks at their skill needs, looks at the job opportunities, moves them back in to employment, and then crucially supports them after they're back in to employment. If you go in to a job centre today in this country, once you're back in work, once you've paid one month's national insurance contribution, that's a tick in the box, that's a job created.
We want to see a situation where the providers, the organizations that are doing the welfare to work process, are paid by results and they're paid over a period of time. So that they're still supporting you, six, twelve months after you're back in the work place, to make sure you don't run in to the kind of problems that many people can do when they come straight off benefits and back in to work.
JON SOPEL: But some people would say that the government's target of getting an additional million people off incapacity benefit is unrealistic. You've kind of raised the auction and said, actually, we can make it an extra two hundred thousand or six hundred thousand. But I'm still not absolutely clear, how you can be certain you're going to do it.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Well what I think the governments failed to do, is to come up with this kind of long-term process. A number of the mental health charities have said, they think the government will miss its target, because there isn't a really long term support process and that's the difference. You've actually got to help people not just back in to work on day one, but you've actually got to support them and mentor them, once they're back in work. If you talk to those organizations...(interjection)
JON SOPEL: Sorry, let me just stop you there cos that's interesting what you're saying but that sounds rather expensive, if you're going to give all this support network.
CHRIS GRAYLING: But it's in all of our benefits. Nobody benefits from sitting at home doing nothing and we don't benefit as a nation by paying people to sit... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: How many people do you have to employ to give everybody that support that you're talking about.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Well, what we're looking to do is to re-invest the money we save in the - for the early years of getting somebody back in to work, off benefits, in to the process of getting them in to work and then supporting them once they're back in work. Ultimately it's a saving for all of us, you know, if we can get people off benefits in the end, the benefits bill comes down, which is good for the tax payer, good for the nation. And it's good for those people because it does them no favours at all, having them sitting at home, month after month after month doing nothing.
JON SOPEL: Of course that is the argument, but just dwelling on that narrow point that you were just making there, that you need all these people to be supported, and you're saying that will come out of savings. I thought the savings were meant to fund another tax relief.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Yeah, what we've said, I mean, our estimate is that the money you save in the very early days of getting somebody back in to work, should be reinvested in to supporting the process of getting them in to work. It's the payment by results we talked about. We would look to divide the country in to a number of zones, in much the same way the government's own advisors have recommended, to support people in those areas back in work. And those companies will be paid by the immediate savings that they made. But once you've got people back in to work, at that point you generate real savings to the Exchequer which can be reinvested in tax changes, in tackling the couple penalty in the tax credit system.
JON SOPEL: Would you acknowledge that as a policy, this is a work in progress still.
CHRIS GRAYLING: I think we've got ample evidence. So in terms of the thinking that has gone in to the policy, we've got ample evidence that this works and we've got a very clear sense of how it will work. If you look at the work done by Iain Duncan-Smith for us, his policy group, this summer, he produced the most comprehensive set of recommendations, far more detailed than anything that I think any major party has brought forward in recent years, has given us a real blue-print as to how we could go about doing this. And we're really taking that blue-print now and looking at how we would implement it in government.
JON SOPEL: And the Federation of Small Business say it could lead to chaos.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Well, I don't think it will lead to chaos. I think what we've seen around the country is real demand for, for Labour in the last few years. We've had far too often to resort to bringing people in to the country to fill the jobs that are here. Let us help those people who are stranded on benefits, give them the right skills and support to get them back in to work. Make sure when they're back in work, they do get proper mentoring and support, so that then, they're a positive contributor, to the small businesses that take them on, so that we can tackle the concerns of someone like Steven Allen... (interjection)
JON SOPEL: Would you have liked a bit more time to work this policy up to get more detail on it before it was announced at the Tory Party Conference, when you probably thought you were going to have to face an election.
CHRIS GRAYLING: Well, we've been working on this for the last eighteen months. (interjection)
JON SOPEL:... (overlaps)... it may be had to be rushed out a bit because you had to show that you had things to put in the window.
CHRIS GRAYLING: We've got a blue print document, produced by the Iain Duncan Smith Social Justice Commission this summer, that is that thick, setting out the different things we would need to do, to make some of the experience in other countries, such positive experience, that's been so successful in getting people off benefits in to work, to make it work in this country. And I think we've got a blue print that is far more detailed than anything, any previous opposition, seeking to form the next government has ever had.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Chris Grayling, thanks ever so much for being with us. Thank you.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS GRAYLING
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The Politics Show Sunday 21 October 2007 at 12:00 BST on BBC One.
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