Headlines: May 27th, 1997

The holistic approach to economic and social issues was given a boost by the announcement of a task force to modernise the tax and benefit system. This is a further recognition that the big issues of the modern, complex, society do not fall neatly within the boundaries of a government department, local authority or professional body.

This initiative is focused on people who are out of work and receive benefit, but have no incentive from the tax system to get back into work. Harriet Harman, Social Security Secretary said: “We are determined to tackle the scandal of one in five households of people of working age having no work. Work is the best form of welfare for people of working age. We want to tear down the barriers that keep people out of jobs and trapped on benefit.”

The Task Force will be led by Martin Taylor, Chief Executive of Barclays PLC,and will bring together people from the Treasury, the Inland Revenue, the Department of Social Security, and the Department for Education and Employment. They will work closely with the ministers in these departments. The project is expected to last for about a year.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said: “It is another example of our new way of working. Governments in the past have been least good at issues which span departments. In our first week, we set up our Welfare to Work Committee to modernise the welfare state. Now we are fulfilling our pledge to streamline and modernise the system to fulfil the objectives of promoting work incentives, reducing poverty and welfare dependency, and strengthening community and family life.”

Martin Taylor began his career as a financial journalist. He has been Chief Executive and Chairman of Courtaulds and a non-executive Director of W H Smith, before joining Barclays Board in 1993. He was appointed Chief Executive in 1994.