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Welfare policy under New Labour

Welfare policy under New Labour: Views from inside Westminster

Hugh Bochel
Andrew Defty
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Welfare policy under New Labour
    Book Description:

    Based on an extensive series of interviews with MPs and Peers from across Parliament, the book traces the dynamics of political debate on welfare both between and within parties; assesses the emergence of a new political consensus on welfare; details the welfare policy environment and the reform of Parliament under Labour; examines the extent to which MPs support developments in welfare policy; provides the most detailed assessment to date of MPs' attitudes to welfare and their views on the future of the welfare state under Blair and beyond and offers the first consideration of the role of the reconstituted House of Lords in the scrutiny of welfare policy. Welfare policy under New Labour provides a timely examination of the role of Parliament in the policy process. It will prove invaluable to scholars and students of social policy and British politics and professionals working in social work and welfare policy. It also provides useful insights for those who wish to lobby Parliament in these fields.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-174-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Welfare reform is a central part of the modernisation programme adopted by the Labour governments since 1997. Demographic pressures generated by expansive patterns of demand for pensions and healthcare for an ageing population, coupled with the pressures of globalisation to drive down taxes and regulation, have led to a fundamental shift in Labour Party thinking regarding the principle of universal welfare provision. Despite a commitment to increased public expenditure on some areas of welfare provision, in office New Labour followed many of the policies of the previous Conservative government, including spending restraint, the use of market principles in the state...

  6. TWO Continuity and change: the politics of welfare under New Labour
    (pp. 17-48)

    In terms of the politics of welfare, from the start of the first Labour term considerable attention has been devoted to the extent to which New Labour’s policies have deviated from or been consistent with those of the preceding Conservative government, including the extent to which the government had accepted New Right arguments, such as over the centrality of the market and the shortcomings of attempts to achieve greater equality. Given that The Labour Party, prior to the 1997 General Election, seeking to reduce the danger of portrayal as a ‘tax and spend’ party, had committed itself to abiding by...

  7. THREE A declining force? Parliament under Blair
    (pp. 49-72)

    Under the Westminster model of parliamentary government the British Parliament does not play a significant role in the formulation of policy. Responsibility for the formulation of public policy resides almost exclusively with the executive — the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. It is the role of Parliament to scrutinise proposals for new legislation, to examine government policy and administration, and more broadly to provide a forum within which the major issues of the day may be debated. Many attempts have been made to outline the role and functions of the British Parliament. Studies of the Westminster model often begin with Walter...

  8. FOUR Towards a new consensus? MPs’ attitudes to welfare
    (pp. 73-110)

    The rocky passage of much of Labour’s welfare legislation through parliament raises important questions about the extent of parliamentary support for the government’s reform agenda, particularly related to welfare. It is far from clear that Labour’s welfare reforms enjoy widespread parliamentary support, even on the government’s own benches. Some indication of the extent of discontent among Labour MPs may be gauged by the scale and frequency of rebellions by Labour MPs on welfare issues, most notably over cuts to Lone Parent Benefit, pensions reform, the creation of foundation hospitals and successive attempts to reform Incapacity Benefit. However, while it is...

  9. FIVE MPs’ attitudes to welfare and public opinion
    (pp. 111-124)

    Labour’s welfare reforms have generated considerable interest and debate both within parliament and in the public arena. However, it is far from clear that shifts in political attitudes towards welfare have been reflected in public opinion. MPs act as an important channel of communication between the public and the executive. Constituency work remains an important, and arguably growing (Healey et al, 2005), part of MPs’ work, and, as noted in Chapter Three, some of the changes to the parliamentary timetable as part of the ‘modernisation’ process were intended to help them in fulfilling that role. This chapter examines the role...

  10. SIX A more assertive chamber: the House of Lords and the scrutiny of welfare
    (pp. 125-150)

    Not only have social policy and welfare been key elements of the Labour governments’ modernisation and reform programmes since 1997, but reform of the structures and practices of policy making and the constitution have also been central to the modernisation agenda. This has included reform of parliamentary procedure in attempts to ‘modernise’ the House of Commons, particularly during Robin Cook’s period as Leader of the House (see Chapter Two), and substantive reform of the House of Lords, in an effort to make the upper chamber more representative and legitimate. This was widely recognised with the removal of the bulk of...

  11. SEVEN ‘Exercising influence and setting limits’: MPs’ influence on welfare policy
    (pp. 151-172)

    The preceding chapters have included discussion of the wide range of views expressed by MPs on the role of government in welfare and on specific aspects of welfare policy (Chapter Four), and the extent to which MPs are influenced by public experiences of state welfare provision (Chapter Five). Some of these views, even among Labour MPs, are clearly at some variance with government policy. However, the extent to which MPs are able to communicate to the government their own concerns and those of the individuals and groups they represent is not clear. As discussed in Chapter Three, recent years have...

  12. EIGHT Conclusions
    (pp. 173-178)

    This book has drawn on a variety of evidence, including interviews with 76 MPs and 10 peers, to examine the beliefs, roles and activities of MPs, and to some extent peers, in relation to welfare policy since 1997. The empirical research was undertaken largely during the second Blair term, a period that saw considerable change in many areas of welfare policy. It is also a period in which many commentators suggested that there was a significant increase in the power of the executive, and perhaps in particular the Prime Minister, compared with that of the House of Commons (for example,...

  13. References
    (pp. 179-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-194)