Miliband to Pledge Labour Discipline Over Welfare Budget

Ed Miliband, the leader of the U.K. opposition Labour Party, promised to look for ways of reducing welfare costs by encouraging house-building and pushing employers to pay workers more.

In a speech in east London today, Miliband took up the message of his Treasury spokesman, Ed Balls, who promised “iron discipline” over spending in a speech three days ago. The Labour leader said local councils should be given incentives to negotiate lower rents for social-housing tenants that it has to place in accommodation belonging to private landlords, with the money saved being spent on constructing homes.

Miliband argued that much of the welfare bill, one of the government’s biggest areas of spending, involves subsidizing low pay. He pledged grants for companies that pay a “living wage” and a crackdown on “zero-hours” contracts and on companies that recruit staff only from abroad.

“We have always been against the denial of opportunity through the denial of work,” Miliband said. “And against the denial of responsibility by those who could work and aren’t doing so. This country needs to be a nation where people who can work, do work. Not a country where people who can work are on benefits.”

Balls’s speech acknowledged that an incoming Labour government after the next general election in 2015 wouldn’t be able to reverse many of the cuts by the current coalition that the party has attacked in opposition. Prime Minister David Cameron taunted Miliband in Parliament yesterday over reports that Labour wouldn’t reverse a decision to cut child benefit for higher earners, something Labour has criticized.

“It won’t be our biggest priority” to restore the payment, Miliband said today.

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