Damian Green ‘unconvinced’ by prospect of universal basic income in UK

Work and Pensions secretary Damian Green.
Work and Pensions secretary Damian Green.
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Work and pensions secretary Damian Green has dismissed the idea of a universal basic income, saying he is “unconvinced” by such a plan.

Mr Green said it would be “fantastically expensive” to guarantee a set level of income, as well as hitting low earners.

Universal basic income would replace means-tested benefits with an unconditional flat-rate payment to all citizens, whether they are in or out of work.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has previously backed such a policy, while Finland has become the first country in Europe to trial a system of paying its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Green called the developments in Finland “a small pilot in a local area”.

READ MORE: Dani Garavelli: Universal basic income could be on its way

He added: “I’ve read a lot of the literature - it’s clearly an interesting idea - all of which suggests that this kind of scheme is fantastically expensive, and actually some of the losers from it are those who are on the lowest incomes at the moment.

“I think the polite response is that I’m unconvinced by this proposal.”

His comments at Work and Pensions questions came in response to the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde), who said the idea could boost employment and reduce poverty.

Mr Cowan added that the Government should look at funding research into similar schemes

SNP members at the 2016 spring conference agreed a motion stating that “conference believes that a basic or universal income can potentially provide a foundation to eradicate poverty, make work pay and ensure all our citizens can live in dignity”.