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Minister slams British 'welfare dependency'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 04, 2013

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Britain has to move away from a culture of "entrenched welfare dependency", a Westcountry Liberal Democrat MP and Government minister has said, writes London Editor Graeme Demianyk.

Jeremy Browne, Taunton Deane MP, argues public spending needs to be controlled and not borrowing money that the country does not have. The Home Office Minister's comments to Total Politics magazine come as the political row over welfare cuts continues to dominate.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith this week hailed figures showing that "many working-age benefits" had risen by 20% since 2007, easily outstripping a 12% rise in private sector pay, as an argument to justify the big squeeze on benefits announced in the autumn statement. But Labour and some Lib Dem backbenchers have criticised the cuts to the poorest.

Mr Browne, a former Foreign Office Minister, said public spending needed to be reined in.

He told the magazine: "I'd actually say that there is virtually no area of British domestic policy where we don't have to take some meaningful decisions to enable Britain as a whole to transition successfully to the new world order.

"Spending more than 40% of GDP on the public sector in the medium and longer term is going to make it very hard for us to be competitive.

"We need competitive tax rates, we need to fashion the welfare state to support people who need the support of a civilised country, but where you don't create entrenched welfare dependency. More and more Asian countries will develop their own welfare states in response to demands of their population to have greater security. But it will not be a welfare state which draws exactly on our experiences; they will learn from our experiences and will have a welfare state which is more affordable, and which incentivises people to work to a greater degree than ours has done."

Tory Chancellor George Osborne said in his autumn statement that he wanted to be fair to those who "see their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits" when they set off for work.

Mr Browne is touted as a future Lib Dem leader if Nick Clegg, whose popularity has plummeted since forming the coalition, was ousted. Asked about his leadership aspirations, he would only say: "I would want to see a candidate that represents my sort of views."

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