The People’s Parliament, 4th March 2014

Citizen’s Income: a minor policy change that would transform our society

The People’s Parliament ‘is a discussion series held in Parliament, hosted by John McDonnell MP with the aim of livening up, and providing political depth, to the debate in the run up to the next election’ On Tuesday 4th March the subject was Citizen’s Income.

Professor Guy Standing, author of The Precariat, spoke about the vulnerability of this new class to economic shocks, and about the serious problem of income insecurity, and recommended a Citizen’s Income as a solution to the problem that would satisfy justice principles for both egalitarians and libertarians. He also reported briefly on the significant results obtained from a recent Citizen’s Income pilot project in India (see the report on a seminar held on the 5th March for further details of the project).

Malcolm Torry, author of Money for Everyone, then spoke about how a Citizen’s Income would work, how it could be funded, how it would affect individuals, families, and our society as a whole, and how it would reduce marginal deduction rates so that net income would rise faster as earnings rise.

Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, spoke about the Green Party’s longstanding commitment to Citizen’s Income, discussed the Green Party Spring Conference resolution to include Citizen’s Income in the Green Party manifesto at the next General Election, and showed how a Citizen’s Income cohered with the party’s commitment to sustainability.

John McDonnell, who was chairing the event, spoke about the importance of a Citizen’s Income to our current situation and of how its implementation might become politically feasible.

The House of Commons’ largest committee room was packed for the event, and following the presentations, a vigorous discussion took place on the desirable level of a Citizen’s Income, the costing of proposed schemes, political feasibility, funding mechanisms, administrat-ion, pensions, wage subsidies, the Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage, who should and who should not receive a Citizen’s Income, and much more. A dispute about whether work is the way out of poverty was resolved by an understanding that work as it is now, in the context of today’s largely means-tested benefits system, is not a way out of poverty, but that, in the context of a Citizen’s Income, work could be a way out of poverty for many individuals and families.

The debate ran out of time.