Date: Wed, 9 Apr 1997 15:10:24 -0700
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: D Shniad <shniad@SFU.CA>
Subject: Britain: Churches condemn both parties' priorities
LABOUR and the Conservatives were forced into defending their policies to tackle unemployment after the Churches accused them of putting tax cuts above helping the jobless.
Labour, despite going into the election promising not to raise tax
rates, sought to make political capital out of the report, Unemployment and
the Future of Work, which it claimed was an
indictment of the state of
John Major made it clear he disagreed with the report's conclusions,
saying they might be
well intentioned but were wrong.
He launched a strong defence of the Government's record, and suggested that the Churches should go and look at higher levels of youth unemployment in countries such as France, Germany and Spain before criticising what was happening here.
Although the report called for higher taxes, and contained implicit criticism of Labour for competing with the Tories on the issue of low taxation, Labour made it the central feature of its daily election conference.
Gordon Brown, the shadow chancellor, said Labour's plans to create
incentives for the long-term unemployed to get back to work showed that,
like the Churches, Labour believed special measures were needed. While the
Churches wanted general tax rises, Labour believed such measures were best
paid for by the
windfall levy on the privatised utilities.
Mr Brown claimed that the Churches also backed key elements of Labour's strategy, including a minimum wage; the scrapping of nursery vouchers; and a new emphasis on education and skills for the young.
Tony Blair said the Churches were right to speak on behalf of the
unemployed, and right to draw attention to the need to create more work
Though we do not agree with all of the measures, they make a fair
diagnosis and they are right to say that we all suffer with such high levels of
Mr Major, however, made clear his displeasure that the Churches had intervened during the general election campaign with a report that could provide ammunition for the Government's opponents.
I invite them to look at what has happened to levels of
unemployment in this country, I invite them to look at an economy
producing more jobs. The Churches had a responsibility to be concerned by
those in need, Mr Major admitted. But he said that the conclusions reached
by the report's authors were
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on Church affairs, welcomed the report and said his party was prepared to raise taxes to address inequality.