Unemployed Job Centre
Labour needs to rethink the benefits system, said shadow works and pensions secretary Liam Byrne. Reuters

Labour must be "tough-minded" on employment and the welfare state, according to Liam Byrne, the party's shadow work and pensions secretary.

Writing in the Guardian in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the Beveridge report that laid the groundwork for the welfare state, Byrne laid out the principles that Labour should look to on welfare reform, though he stopped short of articulating a specific policy.

"For [Beveridge], 'idleness' was an evil every bit as insidious as disease or squalor," Byrne said.

"So he would have been horrified at the long-term unemployment breaking out all over Britain, with over a million young people without work, and appalled at the spiralling cost of benefits.

"He would scarcely have believed housing benefit alone is costing the UK over £20 billion a year. That is simply too high."

Liberal social reformer William Beveridge's vision helped pave the way for postwar British society and included the establishment of the National Health Service and a goal of full employment

Imagining how Beveridge might have addressed the current situation in the UK, Byrne added: "He would have wanted reform that was tough-minded and asked everyone to work hard to find a job."

The shadow minister also called for the restoration of the idea of something for something and said: "[Labour] won't win on welfare reform by default."

"Seventy years on from Beveridge, we are reclaiming his vision, learning from his political courage, understanding what has gone wrong in recent years as well as what has worked.

"Britain is a very different country to 70 years ago. That's why social security has to change. But in rethinking the future, Beveridge's first principles are the right place to begin."