What a huge pleasure it was yesterday to have Iain Duncan Smith laying it all out from a lectern slap bang in the middle of the Pimlico Plumbers depot. Introduced by Matthew Elliott, CEO of Business for Britain, the work and pensions secretary pulled no punches in explaining just how his welfare policy is specifically designed to boost the economy by getting more people into work.
It's just under a year since the Business for Britain campaign launched, and we have made great strides in a short period of time. Members range from FTSE-100 directors to owners of small businesses and CEOs at large City financial firms to entrepreneurs like me.
Business for Britain is now backed by over 850 business leaders, whose companies employ millions of people across the UK. What we want is a better deal with the EU, in particular to reduce the red tape from Brussels which is stifling British business and the economy.
We as a nation have a huge resource for economic good and the more we make it worthwhile people going out to work, the better. Be it by making it easier for people to work part time without finding themselves penalised, by taking low earners out of tax, or engaging with thousands of people previously confined to the employment scrapheap to help them get back into work. I believe that this approach is the best one for jobs, for growth and for trade.
Mr Duncan Smith gave a great speech and what was most encouraging about it was that it wasn't, as has been the case with more than a decade of Labour welfare secretaries, a mish-mash of unrelated measures, mostly designed to hide the truth. No, what he has produced is a coherent and wide-reaching policy based on a philosophy that says given the right incentives most people want to work and when they do, they and the country as a whole will be better off. A whopping £50 billion better off by the end of this Parliament, according to the work and pensions secretary.
He also announced extra help for those seeking work and claiming Job Seekers Allowance, which definitely sounds promising! Don't get me wrong - I know it involves more of the Job Centre and I'm definitely not their biggest fan - but if it gives even a few people a better chance in getting work, it's well worth it. From 28th April we're told that those claiming the allowance will have to prove that they're making themselves more employable, which is what should be happening anyway so a bit of encouragement won't do any harm. More than that though, there'll be weekly meetings with advisors rather than fortnightly. It's that push in the right direction that could make a crucial difference in finding work or not. It's a simple equation and one worth sticking to. Now, if the Job Centre can just up their game, this could be incredibly encouraging for UK unemployment.
Of course, Labour have been quick to criticise Mr Duncan Smith but the strength of the UK labour market - with record numbers of people in work, accompanied by dramatic falls in the number of the UK's unemployed - is plain evidence that his reforms are having an impact.
Now what we need to do is bridge the skills gap; I read today about the shortage of skilled labourers in the construction industry and one word jumped straight into my head: 'apprenticeships'. It turns out that they're having a battle to find enough which has meant construction costs are up and as well as that, we're told it's threatening the new housing recovery. If this doesn't scream, "fully funded apprenticeship scheme" I don't know what else would!
Thanks for visiting us yesterday Iain, keep up the good work!