Conservative welfare chief Iain Duncan Smith visited the ‘Tiser last week during his campaign tour of Derbyshire.
The ex-party leader and Secretery of State for Work and Pensions has been at the forefront of the government’s welfare spending cuts over the past five years.
Joined by local candidate Maggie Throup, Mr Duncan Smith was quizzed about welfare, tax and loopholes for non-domiciles as he visited our offices on Friday, April 3 before stopping at Ilkeston Town FC.
We asked a reader’s question – having been responsible for welfare cuts that have made a lot of people miserable “does he ever feel like he has blood on his hands”?
Mr Duncan Smith answered: “No why should I? I see no thing that’s good about keeping people dependent on welfare. When I walked through the door we had one in five households had nobody at work. 2.5 m children growing up in workless households. 2.5 m on sickness benefit.
What I want to do is get people back to work. We didn’t cut disability benefits we let them rise in line with inflation, so we protected the most vulnerable. This is about helping those that need help and getting the others back to work.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done.”
On giving tax breaks to high earners and non-domiciles he said: “Wealthier people pay more as a proportion of their income.
Also remember that a large number of those characters (non-domiciles) bring in a huge ammount of investment.
“We want inward investment. Why is England the single biggest place in the EU for inward investment? It’s because our tax structure means businesses invest here.”
Ilkeston is an area with low incomes, high unemployment, so are the Conservatives still in touch with an area like this?
Mr Duncan Smith said: “Well we’ve got a benchmark of where we were six years ago. We had the worst recession since records began – 46 per cent of national GDP which is staggering. Huge deficit which was racked up by the last Labour government so we we’ve been putting the accounts back in order.
“I accept that people do people feel they are going to be better off, the answer is probably not at this stage because it takes time for those jobs to build up and for incomes to rise.
“But there are more women in work, more people with disabilities in work, youth unemployment has fallen dramatically. It’s been a balance in a number of ways.”
On the high usage of food banks in Ilkeston, we asked what he would be doing to reduce the need for people to depend on them.
He said: “People want to help and I think that’s great. That’s what the civil society is all about. But what we do is ensure that nobody should have to do this because we support them through hardship funds.
“If you go to Germany there is an even more generous system than us – 1.5 million a week. Compared to that we have a low number of people using them.”