Letter: Social Justice: crucial progress from Beveridge, but leading where?

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The Independent Online
Sir: The publication of Labour Social Justice Commission report marks an important turning point in the history of welfare provision in the UK.

Beveridge was an honourable Liberal who created a revolution in political thinking which has lasted half a century. In the latter part of that half century, many have mooted the need for a reassessment of Beveridge to meet the complexities caused by changing industrial patterns, a growing underclass in our society and the post-industrial revolution which has taken place. The Liberal Democrats have offered many progressive options in our attempt to address the gathering gloom of a picture in which we have to contend with growing unemployment, growing numbers of family break- ups and an increasingly bored and disaffected youth.

The Social Justice Commission has taken up the challenge and has produced a wide-ranging set of proposals for the future. All these recognise that there is a good deal less fat in the Treasury than was the case 40 or 50 years ago.

Sir Gordon Borrie and his team, which included two leading Liberal Democrats, have introduced ideas many of which appeal strongly both personally and as the convenor of the Liberal Democrats' health and welfare team. In my view, the public are ready to welcome this kind of cross-party consensus, and part of its importance is that the consensus has nothing to do with pacts or deals between political parties; thus it is all the more valuable for being a genuine meeting of minds rather than a background to some unattractive political deal.

I and my party intend to join energetically in a debate crucial for the future of our country, and one now bound by common themes.

Yours faithfully ALEX CARLILE MP for Montgomery (Lib Dem) House of Commons London, SW1 25 October

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