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UK: Parliament releases summary of Oral Evidence Hearing on UBI

On January 12, 2017, the Work and Pensions Committee of the UK Parliament held an oral evidence hearing on universal basic income, the official summary of which is now available online. It ultimately concludes that the measure “risks being a distraction from workable welfare reform” and urges “the incoming government not to expend any energy on it.”

Basic Income News previously reported on the hearing here, and provided a summary of all contributions here. A video of the hearing can be viewed in its entirety here:

Universal basic income is commonly called “citizen’s income” (CI) in the UK. According to the hearing summary, CI is defined as a payment from the state to all citizens that is unconditional, non-withdrawable (i.e., not means tested), automatic, and paid to individuals rather than households. This largely aligns with BIEN’s definition of basic income.

The stated purpose of the hearing was “to understand the cases for and against CI and to reach a conclusion on whether this is an idea that merits more in-depth attention from ourselves [the Work and Pensions Committee] and the Government.”

The summary presents an explanation of why CI is attractive to many, covering factors that include: income security for all, mitigation of the negative effects of new, precarious types of work, strengthening of the bargaining position of workers, removing the work disincentives that can arise from the interaction of work and benefits, and reducing the stigma associated with claiming benefits. It is also noted that “[w]itnesses focused on the simplicity of CI schemes compared to the current welfare system.”

However, the perceived cost and political infeasibility of the CI ultimately proved more persuasive to the committee:

“The cost of introducing a CI at a level that would be beneficial for the poor would be prohibitive, as equal benefits would go to the whole population irrespective of their income. It would require rises in taxation that have not been contemplated by any political party serious about winning a general election.”

The summary goes on to note that a more modest CI scheme would lose its simplicity advantage over the existing welfare system, as it would need to be topped-up by means-tested and conditional income supports.

Reviewed by Kate McFarland

Photo: Westminster CC BY-SA 2.0 by Hernán Piñera

Read the official summary and official transcript.

Read more:

Kate McFarland, “UK: Parliament hosts oral evidence session on universal basic income (video)”, Basic Income News, January 20, 2017

Andre Coelho, “VIDEO: UK’s Work and Pensions Committee oral evidence on basic income (summary of content)”, Basic Income News, February 18, 2017.

About Genevieve Shanahan

Genevieve Shanahan has written 20 articles.

Genevieve is a graduate of University College London, with an MPhil in philosophy. She currently works at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, assisting with research on young people and work in Europe, and otherwise reads and writes about basic income.

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2 comments

  • Well, what a surprise! The government shouldn’t bother, because the tax cost of a beneficial level of CI/BI would be too high. Perhaps we should start looking at alternative funding. Social credit, anyone?

  • Ros Lucas

    The present government may well have to think again when polling results reveal such discontent in this country where the divide between rich and poor gets wider.

    The present economic system based on retail development and debt merely puts more money into the hands of bankers, just like quantitive easing did.

    Of course the present government do not wish to rock the boats of those they protect from higher rates of tax and look at funding a UBI/CI, because that might just prove they have been wrong all along!

    Such a pity personal egos prevent politicians from making decisions that might just improve the life/work conditions of the majority of citizens in this country, give them back some self worth and esteem that could allow them not to have to rely on handouts or be scared to lose benefits if they exceed hours they work – and to take part in a system that might even help them take the risk of becoming an entrepreneur.

    A pilot programme (such as those this podt is linked to, to guage the wholescale feasibility of such a new way of thinking would have been a way forward to demonstrate that politicians are able to think in different ways that benefit the majority – they may well rue the day they ignored suggestions from those who really do czre about the under-privileged and vulnerable – governments can no longer afford to ignore the young and old in this country who believe that old political decisions, based on outdated economic systems are not working for the general public – only for those who can afford to pay for everything and hide their money in the cloud and other ethereal places!

    As the 5th richest economy, tax avoidance figures, profitable banks, we own and a public who have recently shown they are willing to pay more to help those in need and to protect vital services,mthere can only be a hidden agenda for such great ideas not to be taken up!

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