I gave oral evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee at a session on November 3rd, and have only just got round to reading the transcript, which is here. I made three important reservations about Universal Basic Income: the distributive impact, especially if it was to be funded by closing down existing benefits; the impossibility of defining a level that would be ‘adequate’; and the many other purposes that benefits have.
There are two points in the transcript at which the MPs misconstrued what I was saying, and while the format of the session wouldn’t allow me to go off on a tangent to explain, I can clarify the points here.
Q116 was not addressed to me – it was answered by Jonathan Williams. Q117 was, and Geraint Davies MP seems to have taken me to mean that people should be forced to work. I can’t see where he got that from, which makes it difficult to answer; I said no such thing, and wouldn’t. I did say that conditionality does not work and was counter-productive.
In Q143, Robin Millar MP thought I was arguing to ‘tweak’ the system. This, at least, is an understandable misapprehension; I should have been clearer. I have argued, here and elsewhere, to break up big benefits into smaller ones. However, I don’t think that’s a ‘tweak’ – it would be a fundamental reform. See, for example, my blog on How to abolish Universal Credit. The rationale for redesigning the system about simpler, smaller benefits with common pay-days is that then ‘income packages’ – the money people finish with – can be adapted to their needs without massive intrusion or putting everyone on the same conveyor belt.