Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour is looking at universal basic income

 
James Nickerson
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The Labour Party Autumn Conference 2015 - Day 2
A universal basic income offers a powerful way of protecting all citizens, McDonnell said (Source: Getty)

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that Labour is considering backing a universal basic income (UBI), which could prepare the workforce for robotisation.

The change would be a transformation of the welfare state, providing a flat rate payment to individuals.

McDonnell will appear at the launch of a report from campaign group Compass in the House of Commons tonight, according to the Guardian.

The research "makes an interesting case for a universal and unconditional payment to all, which could prepare our country for any revolution in jobs and technology to come – it is an idea Labour will be closely looking at over the next few years." he said.

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The research from Compass said that UBI could prepare "us for a world in which the new technological revolution, driven by artificial intelligence and robotics, will, over time, transform the nature of work and the type and number of jobs".

"A UBI offers a powerful way of protecting all citizens from the great winds of change to be ushered in by the fourth industrial age, and of sharing the potentially massive productivity gains that it will bring," it added.

The UBI would be paid to everyone, regardless of whether they are employed or not, but also tackels simplification of the welfare state by replacing a myriad of means-tested benefits.

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McDonnell said that the research could prepare "our country for any revolution in jobs and technology to come - it is an idea Labour will be closely looking at over the next few years".

A similar concept was rejected by Swiss voters in a referendum. More than three-quarters of voters sided with the government and campaigners who warned the proposal to give every man and woman 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,773) a month was just too expensive.

In the UK the system would also be costly, while there would be some losers during the shift from the current system to a UBI.

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