But in return, the welfare state should give far more help to people who have actually contributed by working and paying National Insurance, he said.
Mr Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill), Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, was speaking as Conservative Chancellor George Osborne prepares to announce cuts in benefits in his Autumn Statement today.
He is Labour’s official spokesman on welfare issues, but his comments may anger some party activists who have opposed Tory attempts to force young people into work.
In a hard-htting speech to members of the left-wing Fabian Society, Mr Byrne said Government should make sure young people are offered good jobs. He said: “But in return, we have to insist that young people have a responsibility to take the jobs they are offered and not stay on benefits.”
More parents and carers should also work, he said.
“We won’t raise the employment rate unless parents and carers take responsibility to contribute in new ways like going back out to work.”
People with disabilities should also be encouraged to work, he said. “Given 50 per cent of households in poverty are home to someone with a disability we will not roll back poverty unless we sort this out.”
And workers should be told to take out private pensions. “People have a responsibility to save for their future. Not just rely on a state pension, but to save for a private pension too.”
Mr Osborne was expected today to announce plans either to freeze welfare payments or increase them by less than the rate of inflation. Either measure would amount to a cut in real terms, but there were reports last night that he was still negotiating with Liberal Democrat coalition partners to win their support for the plans.
The Chancellor is also expected to admit that the Government will fail to meet its target of ensuring the nation’s debt is falling as a proportion of national income by 2015.
What do you think? Email firstname.lastname@example.org