CSM email hustings for Chair produced four questions and answers received from candidates have been posted on the CSM website.
The third question in the CSM hustings asked:
Our growing economy does not benefit all equally – the gap between rich and poor has widened and continues to widen under Labour. Shouldn’t Labour be using the tax system to redress this imbalance and redistribute income?
My immediate answer to the question is yes.
I was keen that we kept redistribution in our values statement.
Of course, to some extent Labour is using the tax system. While the rates of income tax have not changed, tax thresholds have risen more slowly than earnings and after the 2001 election we raised National Insurance, primarily to fund health spending. There have also been other tax rises, including on oil companies and, earlier, on utilities to finance the New Deal for the young unemployed. That all amounts to a fair bit of redistribution.
Tax revenues have been spent on tax credits, especially for working families and pensioners. One of my proudest moments as a Labour parliamentary candidate was when a single mother approached me to thank Labour for the extra benefits we had put in place. We are on the way to eradicating child poverty. The minimum wage is a form of redistribution too. I am sure that without Labour, inequality would be much worse in Britain.
But we face strong forces. While globalisation brings benefits, it has also increased inequality. There are areas of severe poverty and social exclusion. That means redistribution remains an essential tool. Not only redistribution of income: we also need equality of opportunity and social justice, and people need good healthcare and housing.
Let’s not forget either that even with our problems, we are a rich nation. Global poverty presents us with a radical challenge.
If I am elected as your Chair, expect to see CSM campaign on behalf of the poor and excluded.
That, surely, is one of the reasons why CSM exists.