John Major attacks 'shocking' inequality

Posted On: 
11th November 2015

Sir John Major has hit out at the characterisation of welfare recipients as “idlers and scroungers”.

Sir John Major

The former prime minister used a speech last night to warn that the circumstances facing some of the poorest in the UK are “shocking”.

“We are still not a nation at ease with itself. Much has been done – is being done – to ease inequality, but we can do so much more,” Sir John said in the Hinton Lecture.

“As the world becomes richer, inequality becomes less tolerable, and the case for reducing it more urgent. A crusade to widen prosperity more equally will not only ease hardship, it will build our national wealth – and health.”

The former Tory leader said politicians needed to “understand how hard it is to escape” poverty and unemployment: “It is not inertia that keeps the unemployed immobile: it is simply that, without help, they are trapped.”

“Everyone in receipt of benefits is not a scrounger. Of course idlers and scroungers exist – and governments are entirely right to root out the cheats who rip off the taxpayer,” he added.

“But the focus must not be only on those who abuse the system; we need equal concentration on those who are failed by the system.”

The Government, charities and private sector benefaction all need to play their part in addressing inequality and hardship, he said.  

Sir John highlighted the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor as evidence that the Government needed to do take further action.

“I have no doubt that much of this disparity is caused by poor lifestyle, poor choices, poor diet – but poor environment, poor housing and poor education must surely be contributory factors. Whatever the reasons, this is a shocking situation in 2015,” he said.