Help shape our new Universal Basic Income policy

At our 2020 Autumn Federal Conference members voted to commit the party to campaign for a universal basic income and called on the Federal Policy Committee to work on the details of the implementation.

For the past three months a working group, including members from England, Scotland and Wales, has heard from external experts and campaigners on how a UBI could be implemented and paid for in a socially just and equitable manner.

In our discussions the working group has tried to discern what members may have had in mind in voting for UBI as a broad policy whilst balancing the impact of a basic income on the party’s ability to fund other policy priorities in a future general election manifesto.

In producing the consultation paper – now available until 7th June alongside these short-form questions on the Party’s website – we had regard to many of the changes to Universal Credit adopted by the party in 2018 via the A Fairer Share For All policy paper, as well as more recent proposals to support disabled people and carers.

The working group is asking members for views on the level of an initial UBI which we propose would run alongside an improved and more generous Universal Credit to ensure that vulnerable people do not lose out compared to the current benefits system,

To further assist with this aim, we propose Local Housing Allowance and disability benefits would remain outside of a UBI.

In addition to consulting on the initial level of UBI, and by extension the additional cost to the state of funding it, we are also keen to hear whether our focus on UBI being a working-age payment is the right one. Whether initially, or as part of a more expansive scheme, members may wish to see UBI expanded to include pensioners and children.

In the consultation document we make it clear that an initial UBI should not be the limit of the Party’s ambitions: the proposals represent a system that could be implemented in one go with limited need for wider economic adjustment. Once implemented, the possibility of expanding the level or scope of payments over time, with relevant increases in taxation to account for them, would help to bring more people off means-tested benefits as their incomes rose past the point where these were needed, and would tend to improve the efficacy of the system as a whole for combating poverty and providing living cost support.

Whatever your view on the policy adopted by conference last year the group would be keen to hear from you so please do visit the website, register for the virtual consultation session, and take the short survey or send us more detailed views via [email protected]

* Paul Noblet is chair of the UBI policy working group and previously chaired the Fairer Share For All working group in 2018. He served as a councillor in the London Borough of Southwark from 2006-2014.

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  • The consultation paper notes:
    An important component of the funding of any of the options under consideration will be significant reductions of the personal income tax allowance and the National Insurance Primary Threshold for people of working age – with the exact amount dependent on the level of the UBI.
    The additional tax paid by individuals will largely offset (but never exceed) the benefit from the UBI, thus very largely covering the cost of the UBI for all taxpayers for the less generous schemes. We propose in all cases leaving some level of Personal Allowance (at least £2,500 a year) and a National Insurance Primary threshold (at least £50 a week) in place as this is helpful to those on lower incomes and reduces the administration costs
    by not bringing very low incomes into the tax base.
    4.1.2 Further funding will also come from some reductions in welfare expenditure as the UBI reduces households’ dependence on Universal Credit and other means tested welfare benefits.
    4.1.3 The remaining funding requirements, after the above reductions in income tax personal allowances, national insurance primary threshold and reduced benefit expenditure have been taken into account, are estimated as follows:
    Potential UBI Estimated annual cost
    £45 per week £13bn-£18bn
    £60 per week £22bn-£28bn
    £75 per week £48bn-£56bn
    £95 per week £84bn-£93bn
    An estimate of the potential yield from tax rises – corporation tax, income tax, national insurance and air passenger duty and other carbon taxes are included in the paper. However, it is also noted that other spending priorities will likely require significant tax increases to sustain.
    The paper than writes “A possible replacement of existing property taxes by a Land Value Tax may lead to the raising of additional amounts depending on the level at which the tax is set. This is currently difficult to estimate due to the lack of an appropriate land value registry.”
    However, a recent study of a proportional property tax has quantified the amounts that can be raised via a levy of residential property tax. The fairershare campaign aims to replace council tax, stamp duty and the bedroom tax (circa 45 billion) with a 0.48% levy on property value. The 90 billion required for a UBI of £95 per week (£4940 per year) would suggest a levy equivalent to around 1% on the average UK home price of circa £235,000 i.e. approximately half of the UBI amount on average.

  • John Marriott 24th May '21 - 4:45pm

    Oh no, not again! “Free money, anyone? Vote Lib Dem to make it happen!” How’s that for a campaign slogan? A sure fire winner if ever I heard one!

  • I have just read and downloaded the consultation document.

    The first paragraph states, “The botched roll-out and savage cutbacks to Universal Credit overseen by the Conservatives since 2015 have deeply exacerbated both the lack of trust in the system and the simple brutal human indignity of people being left without enough money for a decent standard of living”. And that’s it.

    This is frankly disingenuous. It dodges any responsibility for what went on in the previous five years when both ‘welfare reform’ and austerity were swallowed hook, line by most Lib Dem M.P.’s. Unless it is removed or changed to honestly reflect the actuality then it will undermine the Party’s credibility and anything else that appears in the paper.

    Wait until the first forensic interviewer gets stuck into it. No doubt Andrew Neil, Andrew Marr and Emily Maitlis etc., will all be sharpening their teeth and licking their lips in anticipation of an Ed Davey squirm.

    Does this party, and those who call the shots in it, have a competency problem or is it just a credibility death wish ?

  • What a good idea, please send my new salary right away. Will my butler receive a free income too? That would be nice and it would save me paying him. I’m just slightly worried that he might not pull his weight if he thinks that he can get paid for doing nothing.

    If there is going to be a provision for claiming more than the basic, then maybe I can put my feet up as well.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 24th May '21 - 6:59pm

    The concept of an equal basic endowment and universal basic pension was expounded by Thomas Paine. Thomas Spence went further, arguing, like Paine, that everyone is equally entitled to the land. Therefore, “the land with all that appertains to it, is in every parish made the property of the corporation or parish”. The rent on this land should be used to cover various public expenditures. And what is left — about a third, Spence reckons — should be divided equally “among the whole number of souls, male and female, married and single in a parish, from the infant of a day old to the second infantage of hoary hairs”
    John Stuart Mill in his Principles of Political Economy writes ““[Fourierism] does not contemplate the abolition of private property, nor even of inheritance; on the contrary, it avowedly takes into consideration, as elements in the distribution of the produce, capital as well as labour. […] In the distribution, a certain minimum is first assigned for the subsistence of every member of the community, whether capable or not of labour. The remainder of the produce is shared in certain proportions, to be determined beforehand, among the three elements, Labour, Capital, and Talent.”
    Bertrand Russell argued for a UBI “sufficient for necessaries”. Clifford H (“Major”) Douglas gained much attention for the idea of social credit in the inter-war years. The Oxford economists George Cole and James Meade developed the idea of a social dividend in the modern era. The liberal peer Juliet Rhys-Williams proposed a “new social contract” whose central element consisted in a Basic Income. It was an alternative proposal to the Beveridge report.
    James Tobin, John Kenneth Galbraith and other liberal economists argued for a guaranteed minimum income in the USA in the sixties and seventies. While In 1976, the Alaska Permanent Fund was created. In the UK the Citizens income trust was formed in 1998 and its ideas began to take hold over the years with the TUC adopting a resolution supporting UBI in 2016. The Labour party manifesto endorsed trials in its 2019 manifesto and the Welsh labour party has announced its aim to proceed this month while the Liberal Democrats have reinstated the parties pre-1994 policy of calling for UBI.

  • Peter Martin 24th May '21 - 7:41pm

    Who will do the jobs that no one wants to do when Universal Basic Income allows anyone not to work?

    On the one hand we are bemoaning the fact that daffodils, apples and strawberries etc aren’t being picked, and are rotting where they’ve grown, because only migrants from Southern European countries have the necessary skills to be cabable of picking them. They can’t come at the moment because of Covid and Brexit restrictions. On the other we’re wanting to pay everyone extra money because we can’t think of anything useful for them to do now that the robots have taken all their jobs.

    Can anyone explain this on the doorstep?

    We’ve seen figures bandied about which purport to show how popular the idea of a UBI is. Yet the question asked is often along the lines of ‘how would you feel if the Government sent you a cheque?’ I’d like one. Who wouldn’t?

    Yet your own Mark Pack tells us that “Less than one in ten say they know what Universal Basic Income (UBI) is”. I’d put the actual figure of those who actually do know what it is at much lower than that. Most people think it means something to do with guaranteed minimum wages so that jobs which are unpopular now might not be so unpopular in the future. This is actually a much more sensible idea. Pay people to pick daffodils, or whatever, so they don’t rot in the fields, but pay everyone a living wage to do it.

    The scepticism alarm bells start to ring for most people when they do actually follow what is being suggested. They’ll ask “so what’s the catch?” Most do know that when something sounds too good to be true that it probably is. They’ll be thinking that the Government will be wanting to increase their tax bill by £1.50 for every pound of received UBI. You’ll naturally present the figures to show otherwise but you’ll likely be told they’ve heard it all before.

    Good luck with that.

  • John Marriott,

    Andrew Yang campaigned for the US presidential nomination on a single issue – a UBI of $1,000 per month. News outlets described Yang as the most surprising candidate of the 2020 election cycle, going from a relative unknown to a major competitor in the race.
    He is currently topping the polls in the New York Mayoral race. For the Mayoral election he says he wants to “provide $1,000 to each family of a student whose family income puts them at the poverty threshold,” has someone in special education or is designated an English Language Learner.

  • John Marriott 24th May '21 - 7:48pm

    @Joe Bourke

    Even if the Almighty were campaigning on the UBI ticket it wouldn’t convince me. I still think it’s a naff idea. I’d love to see how you might explain it on the doorstep.

  • Peter Martin,

    this is John McDonnell talking about UBI in the run-up to the 2019 elections

    UBI does not replace wages. It has the same effect as any tax credit or benefit payment. It provides a floor of subsistence (with minimal means testing for additional housing/disability benefits) that can be supplemented with gainful employment.
    In the Finland experiment there were no statistically significant employment differences between the group receiving UBI and the control group not receiving UBI. Among the reasons for this lack of any significant effect one way or the other, it could be surmised that firstly, the ‘stick’ of benefit sanctions (which are in force and becoming more punitive in Finland) works only to degrade and further impoverish the unemployed, rather than ‘incentivising’ people into employment; and secondly, that the €560 a month paid is well below subsistence level and hardly provides the financial independence needed to refuse to seek or accept paid work.

  • Joseph failed to tell us that Mr Yang dropped out of the presidential primaries good and early after New Hampshire after getting a triumphant 3%. Clearly his UBI has limited appeal.

  • John Marriott,

    Brittania tells us “Lloyd George’s major achievement during the years immediately before the war was in the field of social insurance. Inspired by a visit to Germany (1908), where he studied the Bismarckian scheme of insurance benefits, Lloyd George decided to introduce health and unemployment insurance on a similar basis in Britain. This he did in the National Insurance Act of 1911. The measure inspired bitter opposition and was even unpopular with the working class, who were not convinced by Lloyd George’s slogan “ninepence for fourpence,” the difference in these two figures being the employer’s and the state’s contribution. Lloyd George, undeterred, piloted his measure through Parliament with great skill and determination. He thus laid the foundations of the modern welfare state and, if he had done nothing else, would deserve fame for that achievement.”
    Maybe Lloyd George’s slogan will go down better this time as £95 per week in your pocket for £55 extra deductions from your pay cheque.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 24th May '21 - 8:54pm

    @ David Raw,

    I envy you your certainty. In truth, however, Andrew Yang was always an outsider for the nomination, and his campaign was a pretty radical one. And in a selection process where successful candidates will spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to win the nomination, failure to set the debate doesn’t mean that your ideas aren’t worth something. I offer up Paul Tsongas, who was by far the deepest thinker in the 1992 Democratic nomination race, but lost to Bill Clinton, who promptly stole much of his platform for his own.

    UBI needs explanation, but difficult policies to explain on the doorstep often become mainstream thinking eventually – take environmental issues, for example.

  • The Brittania reference above notes there was bitter opposition to the 1911 Insurance Act. The Act embraced compulsory tripartite contributions from employee, employer and the state for the first time, but targeted the poorest for unemployment and (means-tested) pensions through a patchwork of voluntary and state agencies. The hated 1834 Poor Law survived as a safety net until replaced with national assistance.
    William Beveridge’s Social Insurance and Allied Services report was published on 1 December 1942. The principle of universality was what distinguished it from the proto-welfare system created by Lloyd George.
    With the 1944 Education Act, the 1945 Family Allowance Act, the 1946 NHS Act and much else, his vision, trimmed for cost on Keynes’s advice, came into being at a time of deep austerity but buttressed by the social solidarity that shared suffering had (temporarily) created.
    The Beveridge reforms were not unconditional and benefits were designed to go to those who had their earning power interrupted because of illness, industrial injury or the capriciousness of the trade cycle (excluding most women). However, as Professor Wade of the LSE has written “a decent society also has a raft of unpaid occupations, including parenting, elderly care, running volunteer organisations, artistic activities. Why design a modern welfare state to shrink the scope for these activities? Rather, the modern welfare state should establish a basic universal income, so that people do not feel compelled to avoid unpaid occupations. The basic income should be financed by switching the tax base from (easily manipulated) income to wealth, which is the more comprehensive measure of ability to pay; and at the same time, lowering the degree of progressivity in tax rates in order to reduce incentives for evasion.”

  • John Marriott 24th May '21 - 10:48pm

    I suppose that, as an ex member, it’s really none of my business telling my former party what it should do. However, I really do not want it to appear a laughing stock. You know how ideas that may be sincerely held but are hard or even impossible to explain in simple language can get twisted. As David Raw wrote, you could imagine what a polished performer such as Andrew Neil might make of UBI if given the chance.

    Believe it or not, I do want liberal ideas to find a permanent place in the political landscape. However I really don’t think that this particular mast is worth pinning your colours to.

  • I think various forms of basic income or guaranteed minimum incomes will eventually be adopted across Europe and North America. The Canadian Liberal party has endorsed a UBI and the Biden administration is talking of making more generous Child credits payable to all regardless of income

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 25th May '21 - 7:43am

    Comments on articles on Lib Dem Voice about UBI tend to be so disappointing. They tend to focus on what people would supposedly ask “on the doorstep”, what Andrew Marr might ask, and what the tabloids might say. Plus suggestions that no-one would bother to get a job if they received a Universal Basic Income.
    It is strange that LDV comments are so negative, when conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of UBI.
    I suspect that anyone who responds so negatively to the idea of UBI has never been in a position of needing UBI. Those who assume that the policy would meet with ridicule “on the doorstep” seem to be envisaging a “doorstep” in a relatively prosperous area, where the householder does not have any personal need for UBI.
    If you were to ask people in the queue for a food bank what they thought of the idea of an unconditional universal basic income, I think you would find that the response would be positive.
    Why the objection to a benefit being universal and unconditional? After all, hardly anyone objects to schools and the NHS being free for everyone, even the wealthy. Indeed, wealthy people are often criticised if they chose to go private for education and health. Hardly anyone objects to the state pension, even though millionaires receive it.
    A benefit needs to be universal and unconditional to ensure that it is received by everyone who needs it, and that no-one slips through the net. If a benefit is a universal right, then there is no stigma attached to using it.
    It is not true that no-one would bother to get a job if there was UBI. UBI would be *basic* income – just enough to cover the basic necessities of life. Most people want more than the basic necessities, so they would still chose to work.

  • Peter Martin 25th May '21 - 7:52am

    “UBI does not replace wages. ”

    We often hear we’ll need the UBI to provide an income for those who have no work because they’ve been displaced by automation. So, maybe not for everyone, but UBI will be the only source of income for some according to its proponents. So it will replace wages. For some.

    Lib Dems aren’t a revolutionary party. Lib Dems do support the present system. This is that the Government issues money, aka as tax vouchers, and demands we pay our taxes using their issued money. To get the money we need to work for the Govt or work for someone else who has been given that money, by Govt, in payment for what they have done. Therefore the system you support is designed to ensure we nearly all have to seek work to survive. If we are physically and mentally able we’ll probably do OK.

    But some of us aren’t and for whatever reason some of us don’t do very well at all. This causes Lib Dems some feelings of guilt and so we read in one of the links on the OP:

    “Long-term unemployment and economic hardship are unacceptable in a modern and developed economy. These are scourges that represent wasted talent ……”

    And, of course, it’s all true. But handing out between £45 and £95 per person per week (Joe’s figures not mine) isn’t going to fundamentally fix anything especially if those who are on lower incomes have to forego most of their their personal allowance to “pay for it”.

    You really need to look at the bigger picture. Yes we all need to make a contribution to society for it to function so we do have to work. But we don’t need to work just for the sake of it. Therefore, increased automation should be seen as a benefit not a threat. And it should be a benefit for all in terms of shorter working hours for all. In other words, we need to have more equality in what we are required to contribute to society as well as what we receive from society.

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 8:42am

    @Catherine Jane Crosland “Those who assume that the policy would meet with ridicule “on the doorstep” seem to be envisaging a “doorstep” in a relatively prosperous area, where the householder does not have any personal need for UBI.”
    Also known as Lib Dem target seats! 😉

  • The state has a duty to provide a safety net for those in need. It also has an obligation to avoid wasting taxpayers’ money. UBI aims to give a salary to many people who have no need for it, so it clearly fails as a responsible policy.
    It is as simple as that and one wonders why those who promote it cannot see that. There are other problems too. A fair society is one in which everyone should be encouraged to make a contribution through useful work, however modest. It can provide purpose, the company of others, a sense of achievement and a feeling of independence. We already have too many people who manage to avoid working. UBI may encourage more.
    What problem is UBI trying to solve? Perhaps one objective is to avoid the situation where financial help is unexpectedly needed. One can envisage an emergency fund aimed at just that and much cheaper than giving an ongoing salary to the entire adult population. People here rightly worry about the reaction on the doorstep. It is a wasteful and misguided idea and the tax paying public will spot that immediately, even if some politicians inexplicably believe it to be a vote winner.

  • Is there any consistency left in this party ?

    The Guardian, 1 March, 2015 : Report of BBC interview with then Energy Secretary, Mr Edward Davey on Labour’s policy on tuition fees :

    “Asked on BBC Radio 5’s Pienaar’s Politics whether he would refuse to carry out the policy in government, Davey said: “Yes I would … what Labour is doing is giving £2bn to the richer graduates. These are people who start with a salary of £35,000, who are likely to be the bankers and hedge fund managers.”

    He made it clear that his party would argue strongly against the policy in any coalition negotiations with Labour: “If you’ve got £2bn, would you spend it on the richer graduates or would you spend it on other things that will actually help the people who are in trouble in society or help get that deficit down ?”

    Any echoes of UBI there , Sir Edward ?

  • John Marriott 25th May '21 - 9:48am

    @Catherine Jane Crosland
    The only ‘doorstep’ I can imagine is the ‘doorstep’ of public opinion. In some ways giving away public money without, I presume, any means testing, may be a bit like the Winter Fuel Allowance or Free TV licences. The words ‘sledgehammer’ and ‘nut’ come to mind. On the other hand, the Chancellor hasn’t been slow at throwing loads of money, which I assume we shall eventually have to pay back, at COVID over the past year, so why not a few billions more?

    Yes UBI sounds great; but that’s only half the story. The ‘Alternative Vote’, while not exactly proportional, seemed a reasonable first step towards reforming the voting system in 2011 – well, at least it did to me. After all, I believe that, back then, there appeared to be a majority in favour of change. But look what happened when the AV referendum campaign got going. Every dirty trick in the book was employed by opponents and we all know the rest.

    If the Lib Dems are really serious about giving some people a hand up, then for goodness sake come up with policies that are targeted to these people rather than have a scattergun approach. This post is full of facts and figures from those who enjoy to bandy them about. Are they really going to spend valuable time arguing for their particular version of UBI, even after whichever form is passed ‘at Conference’?

    One of the reasons why the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign foundered was, aside from its lacklustre performance on the ground, because many advocates of voting reform were just not prepared to get behind this first small albeit not purely proportional step. Rather than being met “with ridicule” in the leafy suburbs, UBI more likely to be met with incredulity on the housing estates, where the offer of ‘free money’ might seem too good to be true. “Once bitten..” as they say.

  • Rif Winfield 25th May '21 - 10:03am

    Dear Paul,
    It’s good to note that the draft explains that Housing Benefits and Disability Benefits will remain outside the UBI scheme, as these are amounts that require to be paid to meet the particular circumstances of individuals. It is perhaps necessary to point out that Child Benefit is in a similar category and should remain outside the UBI scheme; in fact, Child Benefit is at a reprehensively low level and needs to be raised to meet the real costs of raising a child.

    Several people have raised the question as to retaining incentives to work. I think that they miss the point that Universal Basic Income is intended to be exactly what it says on the tin! It will be paid universally, i.e. to every adult including those in employment or self-employment (as well as pensionners, students, the unemployed, etc). This means that payment for work activity – while taxed – will always be additional income to those who undertake that work activity.

  • Peter Martin 25th May '21 - 10:09am

    @ Catherine,

    “….. in a relatively prosperous area, where the householder does not have any personal need for UBI.”

    The point about a UBI is in the name. U stands for Universal. It could equally stand for Unconditional. So it could possibly be considered to be a UUBI.

    So, by definition, it’s not handed out on the basis of “need” and that will always be the main objection. There are some people who are too sick, or too young, or too old, to be able to work and these are agreed exceptions for those who need some extra support. This is why your comparison of a UBI with the NHS is invalid. The NHS is only universal in that there has to be a legitimate medical need for anyone to be able to use NHS services. Most of us might think the NHS shouldn’t provide free ‘boob jobs’ for example!

  • “Minor Party proposes Massive Reorganisation of Benefits.”

    When will our party stop posturing and wasting huge efforts on policies no one will take seriously except to ridicule?

  • Peter Martin 25th May '21 - 10:27am

    ” It will be paid universally, i.e. to every adult including those in employment or self-employment (as well as pensionners, students, the unemployed, etc)”

    Will it? I don’t think it will be paid to OAPs for a start.

    The proposals I’ve seen are for UK nationals in a 25 – 60 year age group.

    This raises an interesting question. Will those outside the age range have to pay extra taxes to pay for the UBI even though they aren’t receiving anything? And what about non UK nationals? If they are working in the UK without a UBI will they be able to pay lower taxes than everyone else?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland – “It is strange that LDV comments are so negative, when conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of UBI.” My guess is it’s the problem that party activists tend to be self-selected as very radical people, often unrepresentative of wider society (that’s not a particular criticism of the LibDems – all the parties suffer from the same problem).

    LDV readers are also self-selected, but more likely to be LibDem supporters rather than members, so I would guess perhaps tend to hold views more typical of supporters rather than of activists.

    By the way for my part, I’ve been sitting on the fence for a while wondering whether to join the LibDems. And the constant push for UBI is one of the things that’s *really* been putting me off. To me it comes across as utopian and financially completely impractical.

  • Laurence Cox 25th May '21 - 11:39am

    I need to keep reminding people here that a “Citizen’s Pension” has been Party policy since it was passed by the Autumn 2004 Party conference. Clegg’s decision to remove it from the 2010 manifesto although it was in the 2005 manifesto, does not mean that it has ceased to be Party policy. To introduce a UBI and exclude pensioners from it would be a travesty. We need to remember who will benefit from it; not comfortably-off pensioners like myself, with guaranteed Civil Service or local government pensions on top of their State pension, but poor elderly women pensioners who may have not have built up a significant entitlement to an occupational pension on their own behalf, or found their husband’s occupational pension cut in half on his death, or been the victims of their employer going bust and the pension scheme ending up under the Pension Protection Fund. Where most years of reckonable service have been before 1997, the PPF can pay out less than 50% of what the original pension would have been; I have known people who have suffered in this way.

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 11:47am

    David Raw “Is there any consistency left in this party ? … ‘would you spend it on the richer graduates or would you spend it on other things that will actually help the people who are in trouble in society or help get that deficit down ?’”
    In Scotland, the party seems to be happy for the government to pay tuition fees, spending money “on the richer graduates” instead of “other things that will actually help the people who are in trouble in society or help get that deficit down”, so not much consistency there.

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 12:11pm

    @Laurence Cox “Clegg’s decision to remove it from the 2010 manifesto although it was in the 2005 manifesto, does not mean that it has ceased to be Party policy.”
    This is an aspect of party policy development that has continued to concern me. Two examples I’ve referred to in previous threads (separate conference votes to phase out admissions on the basis of religion or belief to state-funded schools, and to abandon the selection by ability and social separation of young people into different schools) appear to have been ignored for 4-5 years and through 2 general elections, so I have little confidence that they are actual party policy even though the first touches on the pretty controversial topic of grammar schools. Voters should not have to trawl through the archives of conference votes (and then check a later one did not reverse it) to know (guess!) the party’s position, especially if it is not in a manifesto or has been dropped from a subsequent one.

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 12:13pm

    @Peter Watson “even though the first touches on the pretty controversial topic of grammar schools”
    Oops, can’t count! It was the second in my list but the first chronologically (well, that’s my excuse anyway).

  • Peter Martin 25th May '21 - 1:27pm
  • Only the Tories oppose UBI. All progressive parties in the UK have adopted a policy of trialing UBI including Labour (now in control in Wales), the SNP, the LibDems and Plaid Cymru. For the Green party it has been long-standing policy
    “Universal Basic Income has been part of Green Party policy for decades because we believe that financial security is a key building block of a good society. It is a policy that offers genuine social security to everyone while sweeping away the bureaucracy of the current welfare system. ”
    Caroline Pidgeon has been arguing for a trial In the London Assembly “The Liberal Democrats truly believe in UBI, and it has great potential for London, where even before the pandemic around a third of people lived in poverty.”
    The Adam Smith Institute has backed UBI “…a basic income would eliminate “benefit traps” – where people feel unable to move into work because they will lose more money than remaining on welfare payments. The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out,”
    As Catherine Jane Crosland wisely comments (and William Beveridge well understood) benefits should be universal and to the greatest extent possible unconditional. Child benefits should go to all regardless of income. It is the Universality that avoids setting groups that do not receive benefits in society against those that do not. In actuality all groups receive benefits in some form whether it be tax allowances or direct payments. The removal of tax allowances at higher rates make UBI highly progressive as all models have demonstrated.
    The Mirrlees review of the UK tax system transformed understanding of the responsiveness of labour supply to tax and welfare reform. This provided the scientific evidence for tax rate, tax credit and benefit integration proposals and was key to the business case for Universal Credit.
    To be a serious party of prospective government, LibDems need to be able to engage with the evidence and develop that evidence into practical and deliverable economic proposals, just as Keynes and Beveridge did in the post-war years.

  • This, to me, represents a step forward. I was sent the information in this posting as a party member. So a real effort is being made by the party to involve all members. I note that an online consultation is to be held on Saturday next.
    The next step should be to look at the best ways of using IT to involve all members in decision making. Perhaps then we can work out a method of persuading others to work towards a society in which all can feel a part.
    In the meanwhile well done!

  • Peter Martin 25th May '21 - 2:49pm

    “Only the Tories oppose UBI.”

    This is not true.

    There’s me and Ellie Mae O’Hagan for starters!

  • John Marriott 25th May '21 - 3:44pm

    @Joe Bourke
    “Only the Tories oppose UBI”. That must make me, David Raw and Peter Martin Tories, then? NOT!

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 4:07pm

    @Joe Bourke “a policy of trialing UBI”
    I do have difficulty in envisaging a trial which will provide unambiguous or even meaningful evidence about UBI one way or the other.
    However, if anybody wants to give me £10 million to answer the question “Would 2000 people like to receive £5000 per year”, then I’d be happy to take on the challenge. You wouldn’t even need to wait a year for the answer either, I could tell you tomorrow (or as soon as the cheque clears, anyway).

  • John Marriott 25th May '21 - 4:11pm

    “The Adam Smith Institute has backed UBI”. That would be the same Adam Smith Institute that, according to one website, “works to promote libertarian and free market ideas”? Now I AM worried!

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 4:23pm

    @Joe Bourke “Further funding will also come from some reductions in welfare expenditure as the UBI reduces households’ dependence on Universal Credit and other means tested welfare benefits.”
    I’m UBI-agnostic and have not followed the technical details of the debate so may have missed something, but taking your statement at face value, it worries me somewhat. This gives the impression that for the poorest, UBI will replace some of their welfare benefits, suggesting that it will be those who are better off who are the “winners” and see the full UBI as an addition to their current income (before, presumably, tax threshold/rate changes start clawing it back from the highest earners).

  • Peter Watson,

    this is Ed Milliband recently

    The Compass group issued a comprehensive report and modelling in 2016 The executive summary notes:
    “The results of our simulations show that:
    • a full scheme that replaced all or most of the existing system would be difficult to implement in the present circumstances; it would be too expensive and there would be too many losers among poorer households
    • it would be possible to implement a modified scheme, which would raise average incomes at the bottom, reduce poverty levels, significantly for children, and reduce the level of inequality, all at a manageable cost.
    While a modified scheme would be a hybrid, at least initially retaining most elements of the existing system, it would contain a genuine unconditional income and deliver many of the benefits of a full scheme. It would constitute an extension of universality in social security and reduce the volume of means testing by around a fifth. It could be implemented quickly and could be treated as essentially transitional, as a first step towards the implementation, over time, of a full or near-full scheme.
    Such a scheme would have an estimated net annual cost of around £8bn.”
    More recently, Neal Lawson at Compass has opined “Labour cannot afford to be outflanked on universal basic income”
    “The challenge facing Labour is not just economic, however – it is now political. The big shift last week was not just the numbers of the new Labour backers for basic income, but the fact that the SNP are now firmly behind the idea as well as – more tellingly – the two frontrunners for the leadership of the Lib Dems, Ed Davey and Layla Moran. And of course, the Greens have long been there.
    And this is not just about other political parties. There is a burgeoning basic income movement across the country. ‘UBI Labs‘ have been initiated in seven cities including Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool. And the Basic Income Conversation, which was behind last week’s recovery letter, is helping to orchestrate a powerful national debate.”

  • Robin Stafford 25th May '21 - 5:14pm

    As a LibDem member I disagreed with the conference support for UBI. As others have observed, conference is a small subset of members, which in turn is a very small subset of the population. Its not been well thought through and comes across as a bit of a Corbynite giveaway

    Ive had the opportunity to talk to a number of academics and economists (progressive ones) about it and thats raised the following points:
    – to be a genuine income, replacing the existing benefits system (the simplicity argument of UBI supporters), the amount needs to be far higher than the numbers suggested, which leads patently unaffordable amounts. ‘Taxing the rich’ does not solve that problem
    – for many people, the ‘scroungers’ narrative is a powerful one, however one might dislike or disagree with it. The idea of money being handed out regardless of need will go down very badly with a large part of the voting population
    – what is the problem we are trying to solve? Though it is unfashionable to say it, UC as a system works pretty well now after its appalling introductions. Its main failings are political such as the delay before receiving benefits, and are fixable. It has got money to people during COVID – again, where there have been gaps they are political. It does provide the basis for getting money to people who really need it and for reflecting the local context and costs of living
    – a second part of the problem that needs solving is low pay and the gig economy. People in work but needing benefits, and companies in effect being subsidised. The answer to that is to tackle low pay and the bad aspects of the gig economy, not to in effect prop it up with UBI

  • Robin Stafford 25th May '21 - 5:14pm

    Following on from above:

    – there is an equally important area which is Universal Basic Services – getting the basic services that are essential to equality of opportunity back to the standard needed. This follows a decade of austerity and the undermining of those services, for which the LibDems are at least in part blamed for, rightly or wrongly. Worth noting that right wing, libertarian enthusiasts for UBI see it as a way of pushing people to buy those basic services privately so the state provided services can be further run down.

    The party seems to have an aversion to the state at the moment, at times overlapping with the libertarian end of the Tories. It has little positive to say about it, from vague words about ‘care’ and the importance of education. For the more academically inclined, Amartya Sen the Nobel prize winning development economist wrote about ‘Development as Freedom’. If people do not have access to the basics of health, education, affordable housing, jobs and incomes, security, they cannot be said to be free. That stands in contrast to the libertarian view of ‘freedom’ towards which the LibDems seem to have drifted. In most developed countries the state has a major role to play in delivering these in ways that benefit everybody. Its not socialist to say that, though it might be social democrat. Rather like the Scandinavian countries that I expect represent the closest to a LibDem desirable model.

  • John Marriott,

    think tanks like the Adam Smith Institute can usefully contrast to the debate and it would be no bad thing to have a cross-party Buskellite type consensus on social security as prevailed in the decades following WW2 until the late seventies.
    The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests.
    This is their article on UBI
    It concludes:
    “Humans need security to thrive, and basic income is a secure economic base – the new foundation on which to transform the precarious present, and build a more solid future. That’s not to say it’s a silver bullet. It’s that our problems are not impossible to solve. Poverty is not a supernatural foe, nor is extreme inequality or the threat of mass income loss due to automation. They are all just choices. And at any point, we can choose to make new ones.
    Based on the evidence we already have and will likely continue to build, I firmly believe one of those choices should be unconditional basic income as a new equal starting point for all”

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 5:46pm

    @John Marriott ‘That would be the same Adam Smith Institute that, according to one website, “works to promote libertarian and free market ideas”? Now I AM worried!’
    The author (Sam Bowman) of that Adam Smith Institute blog was voted by readers of this site as their “Liberal Voice of the Year” in the same year it was written, 2013 (
    Remembering that and seeing my name in the below-the-line discussion makes me think I’ve been hanging around here for far too long! 🙁

  • Peter Watson 25th May '21 - 5:55pm

    @Joe Bourke “The Compass group issued a comprehensive report and modelling in 2016 …”
    Thanks for that.
    A lot of the discussion and references give me the impression that, somewhat surprisingly, rather than blazing a trail with UBI, Lib Dems are actually turning up late to the party! In that sense, it reminds me of another “U”, universal free school meals, an idea which the party seemed to get behind after other parties (and having previously opposed) but still tried to present as a uniquely Lib Dem thing.

  • On public support for UBI see this LSE study
    “…any party that does seriously advocate a UBI for these times might find the populace, in the UK and USA, suddenly and substantially more receptive than before. There are multiple reasons why politicians might want to this anyway. For example, Caroline Bentham has persuasively argued on this blog that direct cash transfers to every citizen are a sensible strategy to kick-start the UK economy. Such transfers need cost no more than the quantitative easing that will otherwise happen, they would be at least as effective, and much more equitable. The US Treasury, with its $1200 cheques to almost everyone, has already taken this path. Short-term cash transfers are not yet UBI, but they establish an interesting precedent.

    UBI has been such a fringe idea that it has been almost taboo for mainstream politicians to discuss it: they dismiss it out of hand, or at most speak vaguely of pilots. But everything has changed. The entire fiscal and monetary context has changed. The economy has had the largest contraction ever known, and the government is already transferring huge sums, currently in an improvised plethora of complex ways, to individuals and to corporations. It will have to do more of this, and for a long time. There could be huge political dividends to be reaped by any party that understands the window for change, and rides the crest of changing public opinion, rather than being swamped by it.”

  • The economy has just suffered a huge shock. The furlough scheme is the nearest to UBI that you are ever likely to see. Borrowing is at record levels. The priorities now are to get everyone back in work and create new jobs for those whose old jobs disappeared for good.

    Anyone who thinks that this is a good time to give millionaires a monthly salary paid for by taxpayers is living in a fantasy world. If they disagree, then let them answer the question, why would giving millionaires a salary be a good idea?

    They will protest that UBI is not about that, but it is and they can’t deny it.

  • Peter,

    Millionaires would be paying more in tax and national insurance than any UBI tax credit they receive. UBI is an system of redistribution. Soomething that is well understood by an informed public as the LSE blog notes. See any of the models published to view the distributional impacts or any of the numerous pieces by political parties and economists across the world.

  • Katharine Pindar 25th May '21 - 7:23pm

    Excellent posts it seems to me this tea-time from Robin Stafford, another member who like me opposed the adoption of the UBI resolution at Conference. As Robin writes, ‘What is the problem which we are trying to solve?’ UBI as a concept is popular now, but the references people have given here to studies and trials of three or four years ago do not reassure that it is a viable concept. And as Robin writes, Universal Credit is a system that works pretty well now as an income basis; and it would be improved further by our party’s recommendations.

    What indeed about tackling low pay and the bad aspects of the gig economy, as Robin suggests? What about the depleted local services on which people on our communities depend? Excellent quote from Amartya Sen, apparently, ‘If people do not have access to the basics of health, education, affordable housing, jobs and incomes … they cannot be said to be free. ‘ Exactly! That is why I press for our party to adopt now a comprehensive Beveridge-type plan, to ensure true freedom for everyone, and restore the social contract between government and people. Raising all citizens to at least the poverty level of income should be the priority, I believe. Heaven forbid that we should indeed drift towards a libertarian view of freedom.

    To be clear, I want everyone in our country to be assured a Guaranteed Minimum Income, and if they can’t earn it to be given it. But let it be just a Basic Income guarantee: Joe Bourke did suggest in another thread that the outcome of all the negotiations may be a not-quite-Universal Basic Income going to people of working age; I think, excepting people rich enough not to seek paid employment (but correct me if I am wrong, Joe). The UBI we are likely to come up with as a party will in any case still be supplemented by housing and disability benefits, and I supposed people of pension age continuing to receive pensions? What about child benefit, and sickness pay?

    Good luck to the party working group struggling with all that, and thanks for the Consultation.

  • Peter Martin 26th May '21 - 7:52am

    Joe helpfully reminds us that the Adam Smith Institute has backed the idea of a UBI. I was going to say that if a Libertarian group like the ASI is in favour of a UBI then we all might want to take a another look at the implications of what is being suggested.

    But I’m a little behind the times. The ASI don’t like the old libertarian label and have now decided to call themselves neoliberals. So is this an indication of some slight switch to the left? 🙂

    So what are they up to? I would suggest that the UBI will be seen as a Trojan horse policy for a wide-scale social benefits cap. It will be a sum of money paid out instead of, rather than as well as our existing benefits which includes the NHS of course.

  • Laurence Cox 26th May '21 - 12:39pm

    @Peter Watson
    Yes, this is a problem with our Party. As Article 7.1 of our Party’s Constitution (2021) states:

    “The Federal Party shall determine the policy of the Party in those areas which might
    reasonably be expected to fall within the remit of the federal institutions in the context of a federal United Kingdom.”

    and Article 7.8

    “Subject to the foregoing procedure, all Federal policy papers and motions approved by the Federal Conference shall thereby become the policy of the Federal Party.”

    However, the responsibility for which of the Party’s policies passed at Conference are included in an General Election manifesto falls to the leadership to decide. This is not unreasonable in that there is a relatively short time to produce a manifesto (particularly before fixed-term parliaments) and the manifesto is only a list of policies prioritised to be enacted in the next parliament. This does though give freedom to a leader to bury Party policies which, in my opinion, is what happened to the Citizen’s Pension under Nick Clegg’s leadership in the run-up to the 2010 General Election.

    We have had little booklets of Lib Dem policy published by Lib Dem Image but I know of no complete, authoritative list of Lib Dem policies.

  • Katharine,

    I believe what we will see is a near universal guaranteed minimum income (rather than a full blown UBI) that addresses some of the more egregious elements of means testing, within the current Universal credit scheme.
    As Ed Milliband comments in the link above “the current welfare system Universal Credit is not only intrusive, not only demeaning, not only doesn’t have that much popular support – in terms of the people on it, rightly – and it has caused terrible hardship and misery…the current welfare system has a massive marginal tax rate where for extra pound, you go into work and you’re hardly better off. You earn more and you lose 70% of your income. We got rid of those very high marginal tax rates at the top, but we still have them at the bottom.”
    The LibDem consultation document proposes leaving some level of Personal Allowance (at least £2,500 a year) and a National Insurance Primary threshold (at least £50 a week) in place. There may be some benefit for progressivity(depending on the model) but the administration argument is a weak one. All employment income has to be reported by employers (taxable or not) and HMRC already has in place £1000 de minimis levels of self-employment income and rents of £1000 that can be earned tax free.
    Retaining these allowances comes at a cost (perhaps £32 billion) that has to be found elsewhere. Hence the relatively high cost of the LibDem proposals compared with the Compass model.
    My view is that the personal allowance and NI threshold should be scrapped and replaced with a single tax credit equivalent to the current UC credit basic allowance of £95 per week. That is largely a tax neutral change in aggregate although high earners and larger employers would pay more while low income earners would receive considerably more.
    There are a number of other changes to the welfare system already adopted as policy that have to be funded on top of the guaranteed minimum income change as well as making council tax proportional to house values. These areas need to be addressed in a manifesto.

  • Laurence,

    some elements of the Citizen pension policy were enacted with the triple lock and Steve Webb’s pension reforms. From this month, the new ‘flat rate’ state pension is typically worth £179.60 per week and is indexed each year. Based on current rates for index-linked annuities, that’s equivalent to a pension pot of around £280,000 , or over half a million for a couple.
    The ‘Citizen’s Pension’ aimed to scrap means testing and the pension credit, as contributions would be based on residency instead of National Insurance contributions.. The Citizen’s Pension would benefit women in particular as they will no longer be penalised for caring for their children at home or be reliant on their husband’s pension.
    Auto-enrolment for all workers is a step forward but unlikely to make a big difference for many the huge swathe of pensioners nearer retirement as present.

  • Katharine Pindar 26th May '21 - 8:56pm

    Joe: yes, thank you, I would like to see a Guaranteed Minimum Income become part of Universal Credit, but also, by whatever means, all households raised by the benefit system to at least the poverty level, which I understand would not be an objective of UBI. Emotionally, I would like our party to commit to the abolition of any need for food banks. Practically, I do agree about the need to make council tax proportionate to house values again, and of course to land value taxation reform.

  • Is a UBI as part of LibDem policy irreversible? This is a fantasy policy that will be undeliverable and will make the LibDems unelectable!

    It is fantastically expensive (at a time our economy will recovering from the pandemic)

    It will destroy incentives, I thought we were a free market party, not a socialist one (Labour Party v2?)

    It will be perceived by many voters as a ‘money for nothing’ policy, that will be very very unpopular

  • The 1992 LibDem manifesto included provision for both a Citizens Income and Citizens Pension.
    “Ensuring a Decent Income for All
    The tax and social security systems are long overdue for reform. Our objectives are to simplify and integrate the two systems, to mount a determined assault on poverty and dependence, and to protect our citizens from want.
    We will work towards the eventual creation of a new ‘Citizen’s Income’, payable to all irrespective of sex or status. For pensioners, the Citizen’s Income will be well above the present pension, and for everyone else it will be about GBP 12.80 a week (at present prices). Unpaid work will at last be recognised as valuable. Women caring in the home, for example, will receive an independent income from the state for the first time. The Citizen’s Income will be buttressed by a single benefit for those in need, unifying income support and family credit, with supplements for people with disabilities and for child-care support. These reforms will ensure that every citizen is guaranteed a decent minimum income, whether or not they are in employment.”
    “A Citizen’s Pension
    At present many people do not receive the full basic state pension. If they have not paid enough tax because they have not earned enough during their working lives, people have to rely on means-tested benefits when they retire. Women in particular are badly affected, because they tend to have the lowest paid jobs and to spend several years looking after children.
    Liberal Democrats believe that a pension should be a right for everyone. We will ensure that the basic state pension is paid as of right and end means testing for our poorest senior citizens.

    We will introduce Housing Cost Relief, weighted towards those in need and available to house buyers and renters.”

  • Peter Watson 27th May '21 - 6:08pm

    @Joe Bourke “We will work towards the eventual creation of a new ‘Citizen’s Income’, payable to all irrespective of sex or status.”
    Picking up on Lawrence Cox’s point earlier, does this mean that UBI was already party policy, long before the 2020 Autumn Federal Conference vote referred to in the original article?

  • Peter Watson,

    the 1990 Liberal Democrats’ Conference voted for Citizen’s Income. The 1994 conference reversed the policy.
    The arguments in 1994 were the same as now. Baroness Seear, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, said it was ‘backward looking’ to say means-tested benefits had to be relied upon forever. Studies by the London School of Economics and others had shown that a partial scheme would be revenue-neutral.

  • The consultation paper asks for responses to the following questions (the answers in italics are mine)

    1. Is our approach of focusing on UBI as a working-age benefit an appropriate one? Yes, Child allowances and pensions should be dealt with separately.
    2. Based on the above analysis, at what level do you think we should set an introductory Universal Basic Income scheme? £95 per week. The personal allowance and NI threshold should be scrapped in its entirety and replaced with a single tax credit of £95pw
    3. Given that the recommended scheme does not in and of itself provide the entirety of a person’s income, should we frame it as an introductory rate universal basic income as presented here, or are there better options for how we should refer to this proposal? It should be framed as a Guaranteed Minimum Income as it will not be Universal.
    4. Do you agree that HMRC is the appropriate body to administer a UBI? Yes, it should be part of integrating the tax and benefit system.
    5. Are there additional deployment issues we need to cover within this paper? Are there impacts on specific groups or protected characteristics that we have not fully considered regarding deployment? It should replace carers allowance.
    6. Should we propose specific medium or long term targets for expanding UBI, such as suggesting that it should eventually reach rates sufficient to taper out the couples, or the higher individual, rates of universal credit? It should replace the current basic allowance for Universal credit (inc the addl £20pw) and be paid to individuals i.e. not reduced for couples.
    7. Should we propose that medium-term targets for expanding UBI be legislated for, or left as matters for further work after implementation? Left for review after implementation.
    8. Should we propose that in future, we should work towards rolling pensions and child benefits into the UBI? Not at this stage.
    9. Are there any other matters the working group should consider, or more general feedback on this paper and our approach? Should we have included other mechanisms and forms of income guarantee in our scope? The importance of the deadweight effects of taxes on productivity and specifically countering the capture of additional disposal income in the form of increased rents.
    Guy standing has published a helpful article this week

  • Peter Martin 28th May '21 - 7:43pm

    @ Joe,

    “The personal allowance and NI threshold should be scrapped in its entirety…..”

    Come on , Joe ! This is ridiculous – even by your neoliberal standards. Who could possibly want schoolchildren who might do a paper round, or whatever else they might do these days to earn some pocket money these days, to have to declare their tiny earnings so the tax office can take their cut?

  • Peter Martin,

    as mentioned above HMRC already have a deminimis exemption for self-employed earnings below £1000 and anyone working would be entitled to a tax reducer (in place of a personal allowance) of up to £95 per week; so NO tax or NI would be deducted by employers on incomes below £297 per week.

  • Joe, thank you for posting your answers to the consultation questions. There are a few I disagree with but some are unclear.

    and replaced with a single tax credit of £95pw
    Tax Credits in the UK are “government payouts that give extra money to people who need it” (

    You must be talking about something else. Something which you haven’t explained. It seems that you are against a UBI as set out in the consultation paper and wish to replace it with a payment which is reduced the more a person earns! This I assume would have higher administration costs than a UBI which is never reduced.

    Your answer to Peter Martin assumes that the working group drops the idea of a UBI and instead goes for your income tax reducer benefit. I am coming round to the idea of having a tax free amount of £2500 and National Insurance threshold of £2600.

    “It should replace the current basic allowance for Universal credit (inc the addl £20pw) and be paid to individuals i.e. not reduced for couples

    I assume you mean the single person rate for Universal Credit. It seems you are suggesting that Universal Credit be abolished so people who currently receive it will not be better off. In the consultation paper there is the example of a UBI of £60 and a Universal Credit of £94 which means the person receives £116.20 (I haven’t checked the maths). I need to see how I can propose that the £116.20 figure is higher.

  • Michael BG,

    para 5.4 of the consultation document notes “We would also explore the possibility of people being able to opt to claim their UBI as a tax credit, which could greatly simplify claiming for a large number of employed claimants”.

    Personal allowances are deducted from taxable income. The current personal allowance is worth £48.35 pw in tax relief to a basic rate taxpayer and £96.69 pw to a 40% taxpayer. A tax reducer substitutes the allowance for a fixed reduction for all taxpayers of £48.35. Similarly, the NI threshold saves £22.08 in employee Ni and £25.25 in employers NI. Combined these tax reliefs at basic rate total £95.68. That is the funding source for the tax reducer. Larger employers will pay more in Employers NI. Smaller employers benefiting from the increased employment allowance of £16k proposed by Ed Davey will be able to employ four staff at average wages before paying any employers NI. The £95 tax and Ni reducer means that an employee can earn up to £297 per week before paying any tax or NI i.e. 33.3 hours at the national living wage.
    The £95pw becomes a near universal benefit as this would be the maximum amount of personal allowance and NI tax reduction available to all taxpayers and would automatically retain the temporary addl £20 pw in the Universal credit basic allowance. The same sum would be paid as the basic benefit for legacy claimants and as a carers allowance (slightly more than the proposed £87 pw carers allowance under current policy).
    The money is paid in one of two ways – directly to eligible benefit claimants and by way of a Paye code for employees or reduced payments on account for other resident taxpayers
    The paper at para 2.1 also notes “Liberal Democrat policy already includes a wide range of social security changes. In particular, in the area of household income support, these include reducing Universal Credit waiting times, investing more in the system, abolishing the sanctions system, and removing the two-child limit and benefits cap. Other changes detailed elsewhere in Liberal Democrat policy in recent years include wide-ranging improvements in disability support, and increased sick pay and carers’ allowances. These changes, which are unaffected by the proposals in this paper, would provide real help to families and individuals in hardship and help to reduce child poverty in particular.”

  • Peter Martin 29th May '21 - 4:11am

    @ Joe,

    The standard Personal Allowance is currently £12,570, which is the amount of income (pa) we do not have to pay tax on. So whether we call this a personal allowance or a ‘tax reducer’ is just a matter of semantics.

    On the one hand you’re saying “The personal allowance and NI threshold should be scrapped in its entirety…..” on the other you’re saying ” NO tax or NI would be deducted by employers on incomes below £297 per week.” which, leaving aside the question of NI, is just another way of saying that £15500 is the amount of income we do not have to pay tax on.

    I’m not in favour of a UBI, but if that were to change, I would want to explain how it works in a way that everyone can understand. As Michael BG says of your explanations “some are unclear”.

    The selling point of a UBI, I would have thought, is that everyone gets one and is seen to get one. If it is bundled up into the tax system, whilst we might appreciate the net result, arithmetically, to be exactly the same, the universal nature of any payment becomes less than obvious.

  • Joe,

    You haven’t addressed my point that you haven’t got the Universal Credit terminology right. Also the consultation paper states that a UBI of £60 plus Universal Credit (retaining the additional £20) means a single person would receive £116.20 a week and you are proposing a UBI of £95 and this means that a single person only receives £95. I hope you can see why I prefer the idea of keeping Universal Credit. If the introduction of a UBI does not increase the income of those living on Universal Credit it is not a reform I can support. A UBI should be about reducing poverty.

  • Peter Martin,

    the difference between a tax allowance and tax reducer is an allowance gives relief at the highest rate a tax reducer gives relief at the basic rate of tax. With a tax reducer relief is restricted to basic rate. We already have tax reducers. The ‘marriage allowance; allows and individual to transfer part of their personal allowance to a spouse. But this relief is given as tax reducer. Relief for interest costs on residential lettings is given as a tax reducer not a deduction from rental income.
    LibDems have long expressed an aspiration to relieve full-time earnings (up to the level of minimum wage) from tax and NI. The tax reducer does that.
    The Universal nature of the relief is that every taxpayer gets the same relief and the exact same sum is paid as a basic allowance to benefit claimants. As the consultation paper notes “people being able to opt to claim their UBI as a tax credit, could greatly simplify claiming for a large number of employed claimants”

  • Michael BG,

    the tax credit terminology is as per the consultation paper i.e. “people being able to opt to claim their UBI as a tax credit.”
    The basic allowance currently includes a temporary uplift of £20pw that is scheduled to end in September this year. The proposed guaranteed minimum income of £95pw would make this uplift permanent. As noted in the consultation paper, party policy also includes removing the two-child limit and benefits cap, wide-ranging improvements in disability support, and increased sick pay and carers’ allowances.

  • Joe,

    You quote paragraph 5.4 of the consultation party with reference to your use of “tax credits”. (My copy of the consultation paper doesn’t have a paragraph 5.4.) However, I am questioning the idea that there is such a thing as the basic allowance for Universal Credit. When I was proposing a motion for conference the person who was giving me drafting advice didn’t understand the term. Universal Credit has a single person rate and a couple rate and I think the terminology for the others are ‘elements’ as in the ‘housing element’. As I wrote earlier “I assume you mean the single person rate for Universal Credit”.

    I sometimes wonder if you think we should have policies to eradicate poverty, as you are always very reluctant to increase the amount of money those on benefits receive. As I stated the difference between your proposal and the example of a UBI and keeping Universal Credit is (116.20-95) £21.20 – 22.3% Do you have nothing to say about your proposal being £21.20 a week less that a UBI of £60 and keeping Universal Credit?

    You seem to be saying that someone being taxed at 40% gets tax relief of 40% on their personal allowance of £12,570. I thought the system was: work out how much national insurance has to be deducted, reduce the amount by the amount of NI and the basic allowance and the first £37700 of this is taxed at 20% (taxable income of 12,571 to 50,270 is taxed at 20% according to the website). Taxable income between £50,271 to £150,000 is taxed at 40%. Plus there are claw backs at £50,000 and £100,000 when the personal allowance is reduced giving a marginal income tax rate of 60%.

  • Michael BG,

    it is para 5.3 (not 5.4) in the link above. If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you will get one standard allowance for your household
    Under the proposed model the basic income will be paid to individuals as described in para 1.6 of the consultation:
    “A UBI would also have significant distributional impacts within households. Currently, Universal Credit is paid at the household level, meaning that one member of the household receives the full payment. A UBI would be paid to each household member individually, meaning that all members of a household receive some income directly. This would especially impact households affected by coercive control or domestic abuse, where the structure of universal credit has been cited as a factor preventing people, mostly women, from leaving abusive relationships. Given significant evidence, both in the UK and internationally, that men and women spend money differently, this would also be likely to positively impact children’s welfare in low-income households.”
    Removing the two-child limit and benefits cap, together with wide-ranging improvements in disability support will also add significantly to the ability of the welfare system to address deprivation.

  • I finally found the time to read the proposal in detail, and I am on record as a supporter of UBI. However I was disappointed by the proposals, and also the format of the consultation survey.

    To my mind, one key element of UBI must be that it completely replaces Universal Credit and Jobseekers Allowance (and set at a level allowing it to do so), allowing savings in administration of those as well as completely removing the application and means-testing process.

    The proposal doesn’t do that, except possibly as long term aspiration. The survey starts with the assumption that UBI will set at a lower level and retains UC (albeit with improvements), and all questions are based on that starting point.

    I would have liked to complete the survey, but I can’t because it doesn’t allow me to express my views on UBI, having fixed (in my opinion) the wrong place to start.

    I would have liked to have seen consideration of a higher level of UBI with completed abolition of UC and Jobseekers Allowance as a liberal way to implement UBI, and then more focus on how costs could be recovered through the tax system from those who don’t need it e.g including zero personal tax allowance, simplifying the tax system. I don’t know if the Working Group considered this but didn’t publish the outcome?

  • Joe,

    The link gives four standard allowances no basic allowance. This is why you have to clearly state which standard allowance you are talking about. Again I assume you mean the amount a single person over the age of 25 receives i.e. £74.96 + £20 temporary amount.

    The changes to Universal Credit which are party policy apply under the example the consultation paper gives which is for a single person aged 25 or above. So they are not relevant when comparing their example and your decrease of £21.20 for a single person aged 25 or above.

    You didn’t give the figures for a couple, you just assume they will be better off. Under the consultation paper system example two adults would receive £120 in UBI and the standard allowance of UC if they are 25 or over would be reduced from £127.67. If they have children and are receiving the housing element the first £67.38 a week is not counted as income, so they end up with £120 + 127.67 – ([120 – 67.62] x 0.63 = 33.00]) = £214.67 compared to your £190 a week. Under both they would receive extra benefit for their children. (If they don’t receive the housing element they would receive £245.69 a week under the consultation paper proposed £60 a week UBI.)

    Paragraph 4.0.3 of the consultation states, “Running the two systems alongside one another for these levels of basic income thereby makes the scheme significantly more distributionally progressive compared to models we examined that abolished rates of Universal Credit but did not improve income levels for current claimants”.

    Nick Baird,

    You can see the huge benefits to people on benefits from the examples I have given of retaining Universal Credit of a UBI of £60 compared to a UBI of £95 a week. This is why I totally support the idea of keeping existing benefits until we can increase the UBI to the poverty level for a single person which is estimated by the Social Metrics Commission at £157 a week.

  • Michael BG,

    I am in agreement with Nick Baird’s comment that “one key element of UBI must be that it completely replaces Universal Credit (the standard allowance) and Jobseekers Allowance (and set at a level allowing it to do so), allowing savings in administration of those as well as completely removing the application and means-testing process.”
    LbDem policy is to keep UC. The additional elements of Universal credit (Child allowances. disability and housing benefits etc) do need to be maintained and the withdrawal rate of benefits needs to be decreased through provision of higher work allowances. The fairer share policy paper says “a Liberal Democrat government would pilot a scheme that offered a “guaranteed minimum income” through an “unconditional payment” of the standard UC allowance”.
    A couple receiving UC currently have a standard allowance of £509 per month (excluding the temporary covid uplift) for joint claimants both over 25. This will increase to £823 per month with an individual UBI standard allowance of £95 each.
    A single claimant (under 25) will see an increase from £257 to £411. Over 25 from £325 to £411.
    There are very substantial increases in basic benefits in addition to the removal of the two child limit and benefits cap. How they can be funded, I have already commented on above. The guaranteed minimum income is a base to which is added employment income and additional benefits. Coupled with job guarantees for long-term unemployed, lower withdrawal rates and reform of land acquisition for public housing provision the suite of policies represent a comprenhesive program for elimination of deprivation in the UK.

  • Peter Martin 30th May '21 - 4:00pm

    I’m not sure I should be offering advice on how to make your UBI into a vote winner but I’d say your best chance is to keep it simple. If you have to start explaining the difference between a tax reducer and and a tax allowance, and getting into the detail of why the marginal rate of tax is 60% rather than 40% then you’re really going to be up against it from the start.

    Just keep it as simple as possible. Say you’re to pay everyone £100 p.w. (or whatever) universally and unconditionally and increase everyone’s tax bills, especially those of the rich, to “pay for it”. Keep it vague and explain how you’ll do it later.

    The other big problem you’ll have is that you’ll disappoint your more idealistic supporters, who want a more generous UBI which will take everyone out of poverty without the need for anyone to go out to work. The figures being mentioned clearly won’t. The sums just don’t add up to be able to do that.

    If you are interested in electoral success, I would suggest you should talk to the voters a bit more. Very few of them will say they want people to live in poverty. But on the other hand most will go along with the idea that the State help should be directed at those who want to help themselves. This means the Universal and Unconditional nature of the UBI puts you at serious odds with public opinion.

  • The messaging is relatively simple as was the policy of increasing the personal allowance in 2010.
    Coronavirus has highlighted how our current system fails the most vulnerable. The Liberal Democrats are the first major political party to promise a fully costed Guaranteed Minimum Income for every resident.
    The benefit sanctions regime, which has been found to push people further into poverty and destitution will be scrapped.
    Every benefit claimant or taxpayer will receive a guaranteed minimum income of £95 (£100) per week or its equivalent in tax and national insurance relief, without means testing, together with additional payments based on eligibility for child allowances, disability support and housing benefit.
    The policy aims to eliminate the worst aspects of the current benefits system and liberate people from the anxiety of job insecurity, knowing that there will always be a minimum income to fall back-on.
    Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats said “We need to build a system that works for everyone. We need a system which prioritises social and economic resilience for individuals and for our country.
    Trials of UBI have suggested it can improve mental health, financial wellbeing, and boost people’s confidence. It can properly value carers and caring for the first time and in practice can be a huge boost to the incomes of many women in particular. It can act as a second safety net for those in difficulty, for the most marginalised who fall through the current complicated system
    We never know what’s around the corner. Coronavirus has shown us just how fragile our system is, and how easily it can fail people. From shielding people from another global crisis to rewarding informal caring, we need a system which prioritises social and economic resilience for individuals and for our country. UBI is a huge step towards the fairer society we, as liberals, should champion. I couldn’t be prouder that so many Liberal Democrats have voted to fix our broken system.”

  • Joe,

    You are just trying to confuse people. You are comparing the amount people would receive without the additional £20 to £94.96 for one member of a couple aged 25 or over and £94.85 for a single person. You are not addressing my points.

    1. That £95 a week for a single person aged 25 or over is less than the £116.20 set out in the consultation paper for a UBI of £60 and keeping Universal Credit

    2. That £180 a week for a couple aged 25 or over is less that the equivalent amount they would receive if they were entitled to the housing element and had children of £214.67 and £245.69 it they had children but were not entitled to the housing element under the proposals in the consultation paper.

    You have not addressed my point that for many your suggested UBI with the abolishing of Universal Credit makes them worst off than the consultation paper’s proposal of a UBI of £60 a week and keeping Universal Credit. Why do you want couples with children and single people living on Universal Credit not to be better off under the consultation paper’s proposals?

  • Peter Martin 31st May '21 - 8:46am

    It’s always an idea to take a look at what other countries are doing. The Brazilians have
    a scheme known as Bolsa Família.

    It’s not unconditional. Parents must ensure that their children attend school and are vaccinated. Many might argue for additional conditions.

    You’d overcome many of the common objections to a UBI if you dropped the unconditionality aspect. The more that conditions are attached the less will be the take up, and the less expensive it becomes. If the conditionality of actually doing something in return is attached, then those who are are already employed will drop out. This will free up extra money, or resources, for those who really do need some additional income.

    At the same time society will benefit from the work that is performed.

  • Peter,

    The Liberal Democrats have already agreed the principle of a UBI which is unconditional after agreeing earlier that the sanction regime should be abolished and Jobseekers Allowance be unconditional for unemployed people. I don’t think the party will go back on these decisions.

    The question that a member of the public who wants to enforce conditionality has to answer is the one I asked you some time ago. Should someone who doesn’t meet the conditionals set by government to receive unemployment benefit be imprisoned for not meeting them, which according to The Sun cost £43,213 a year in 2019 and in 2020 was about £44,600? If they have children should their children be taken into care, which according to The Guardian it cost about £56,000 a year in 2019 to keep a child in residential care? Should the adults be forced into a life of crime or homelessness and begging or even end up starving?

    Once the member of the public has agreed that we shouldn’t imprison people who don’t look for jobs and we shouldn’t put into care their children and we should provide them enough so they are not starving we can discuss how much this should be. I believe it should be set at the poverty level. This would mean that no-one in work would live in poverty. Why would anyone object to this?

  • Peter Martin 31st May '21 - 6:22pm

    @ Michael,

    I’m not quite sure what Lib Dems were saying in their 2019 conference. Was it that the Jobseekers Allowance should be renamed? If seeking a job isn’t a requirement then you’d have to think of something else to call it.

    There is general agreement that the present petty minded and punitive system of benefit sanctions for Job Seekers is much too harsh. Unemployed people need to be helped into jobs rather than forced into looking for jobs which possibly aren’t there. However, ultimately there has to be a requirement of willingness, on the part of an unemployed person, to actually do something when the opportunity is offered.

    Your much revered Sir William Beveridge always took the same line.

    The policy you are proposing can’t be a fundamental tenet of Liberal Democracy. Otherwise it wouldn’t have taken until 2019 to come out and say it. I doubt if you’d find one person in ten who would support the argument that a JSA, or whatever you want to call it, shouldn’t come with a requirement of availability and willingness to take a job.

    PS Who said anything about imprisonment?

  • Peter,

    You say that the unemployed must do certain things. It is normal when people don’t comply with what the government wants them to do to imprison them. However, there is still the issue of what should the state do with the children of those who will not do what the state requires them to do when they are unemployed? I know you don’t believe that unemployed people should have no benefit if they fail to do what the government states they should do. I believe most people agree with you there. And so do not agree that unemployed people who refuse to do what the government requires of them should receive no benefit.

    I think that Liberal Democrat policy with regard to the conditions for receiving Jobseekers Allowance was unclear. There might still have been an assumption that the person receiving Jobseekers Allowance was able to take a job if offered one, but not that they had to take any job that they are offered. We wanted to replace sanctions with incentives.

    I agree that those who receive Jobseekers Allowance should be available for work and are willing to take a suitable job if offered one. The Liberal Democrat policy paper “A Fairer Share for All” states, “we assume that people are acting in good faith unless there is a reason not to and help them to receive the support to which they are entitled”. Jobseekers Allowance is being phased out and Universal Credit could be a system of support related to a household’s income rather than particular circumstances.

    A UBI is a liberal policy as it enhances personal freedom.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jun '21 - 7:36am

    @ Michael BG,

    You could also argue that Lib Dem politicians should have the ‘enhanced personal freedom’ to make deals with Tory governments to impose a punitive range of benefit sanctions in exchange for a 5p plastic bag levy.

    Lib Dems clearly made the wrong choices then and presumably were seeking to make amends by lurching in the other extreme in 2019. I’d be interested to know the line taken by Ed Davey, Jo Swinson and others who’d voted for such measures in the first place during the coalition years.

    The sensible alternative to declaring everyone to be fit for work when they obviously aren’t, and look for any excuse to deprive unemployed workers of their benefits, isn’t to say that there is no requirement for Job Seekers to actually be Job Seekers. There needs to be a more rational approach taken with the involvement of the medical profession for those who are saying they are too sick to be able to work.

    There’s no question of prison except possibly for large scale benefit fraud. You’re making a silly argument.

    JSA at least does have some semblance of acknowledgement that Unemployment Benefit is part of the scheme of National Insurance that Beveridge originally envisaged. There’s no reason why Job Seekers can’t also be young people coming out of the education system if you aren’t totally sold on Beveridge’s contributary ideas. So it shouldn’t be a question of just going along with the change to UC which you’ll want to morph into a UBI.

  • Peter,

    You don’t believe that those who fail to meet the current requirements to receive Jobseekers Allowance should receive no benefit.

    I believe that you believe that the state should ensure no-one is starving in the UK. And therefore that everyone should receive some benefit to ensure they don’t starve. Please let me know if I am wrong?

    I believe that the majority of people don’t think a person should be left without any income and be left to starve and they don’t think the state should take their children into care. They believe that the state should ensure they have enough money so they are not starving and they have a home and clothes. They believe these should be provided unconditionally. They also believe that people should work for a living and that people in work should be better off than living on benefits. All these can be met without allowing anyone in the UK to be left without an income. And for an income to be provided for them so they can afford clothes, a home and to prevent them from starving.

  • Peter Martin 1st Jun '21 - 6:40pm

    @ Michael BG,

    Are we talking about real cases here or just hypothetically? Can you name one person, or do you know of such an individual, who would turn down a paid job at a living wage, which they are quite capable of doing and then insist that the State should protect them from themselves by providing an unconditional income to keep them out of dire poverty?

    It’s just not going to happen. If any individual is so reluctant to take up such an offer it has to be because they have a better alternative which is almost certainly to be of an illicit or dubious nature.

    It’s no wonder that most voters think the Lib Dems are away with the fairies most of the time.

  • Peter,

    I assume from your silence that you do believe that the state should ensure no-one is starving in the UK. And therefore that everyone should receive some benefit to ensure they don’t starve.

    It also appears that you reject the current sanctions regime, as do the Liberal Democrats, but not I believe the Labour Party. Currently unemployed people have to apply for jobs “suggested” by Jobcentre staff and if offered the job take it, even if it doesn’t pay enough to cover their travel expenses, the extra costs of being employed and the amounts they need for clothes, food and housing.

    Today there are people who receive no benefits because they have been sanctioned. Today there are people who do not receive enough benefits to keep them out of poverty. Where they don’t have enough money to buy clothes, food and provide a home for their family. These are not hypothetical cases. These are real people suffering today.

  • Peter Martin 4th Jun '21 - 8:06am

    @ Michael BG

    We seem to be talking at cross purposes here.

    The Labour Party haven’t gone as far as to say that there should be no checks on the payment of the JSA, and other benefits, but they have never, unlike the LibDems, supported the current regime of punitive and sanctions.

    The Lib Dems supposedly are the party of the moderate centre, eshewing the extremes. But here we see Lib Dems lurching from one extreme to the other. In coalition they were prepared to trade off their support for the mean minded sanctions regime we have now in exchange for a 5p levy on plastic bags. In opposition that all changes to having no checks at all!

  • Peter,

    The Labour Government of 1997 to 2010 supported sanctions. It didn’t abolish the Jobseekers Agreement and the sanctions for when people didn’t meet the conditions set in them.

    The Lib Dem MPs supported all sort of things that I didn’t support and didn’t gain support from the party at a Federal Conference. The Coalition Agreement was not agreed on a one for one basis. I recall that free school meals for infant children was agreed in exchange for the new Marriage Allowance, but this was not in the Coalition Agreement.

    If we are talking at cross purposes it is because of you didn’t address my posts of 31st May and 1st June, particularly the one of 6.09pm of 1st June where you refused to say, as you have in the past, that people who don’t meet the conditions for their unemployment benefits should still receive some benefits.

    The argument I was presenting was that most people, like you, agree that people should receive some benefit even if they don’t meet the current conditions for unemployment benefit. This is more likely to be true if the person has children.

    To stop talking at cross purposes, you only need to agree that you believe that a person who doesn’t meet the current conditions for unemployment benefit should receive some benefit; that they should not be left with no income.

  • Peter Martin 5th Jun '21 - 3:50am

    @ Michael BG,

    This is the Labour policy at the last election:

    “In government, Labour will immediately end the worst aspects of Universal Credit, including:

    Ending the benefit cap and the two child limit, which alone will stop up to 300,000 children being pushed into poverty;
    Immediately suspending the punitive sanctions regime, which has been ineffective at supporting people back to work and has instead pushed people into poverty and reliance on foodbanks;
    Ending Universal Credit’s “digital only” requirement, which excludes people who cannot access the internet or are not computer literate, and recruiting 5000 additional advisors to deliver this change;
    Switching to split payments and fortnightly payments, including an automatic interim payment to end the five week wait.”

    And in the longer term:

    “The emphasis in this new system will be on tailored support – delivered by a work coach – and reciprocity rather than rigid requirements and punishments when they are not met. The claimant will agree to search for suitable work and undertake training opportunities where appropriate; the claimant’s work coach will agree to help identify suitable employment and training opportunities and support claimants in taking them up.”

    The only quibble I might have is that the document lays all the blame on the punitive and callous sanctions regime on the Tories but doesn’t mention that subsequent leaders of the Lib Dems also voted for the changes when in Government.

  • Peter,

    I could list the Liberal Democrat policies as set out in our 2019 manifesto, but listing policies from manifestos does not return us to a discussion of UBI and whether a majority like you believe that people who are unemployed should receive some benefit even if they don’t meet the conditions set by government to receive unemployment benefit.

    I assume that you are finding it very hard to repeat your previous statement that the state should provide some income to people even where they don’t meet the requirements demanded of the unemployed because it would seem that you do support an unconditional benefit for people without any income.

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