In a recent opinion piece for the Mail, Conservative MS for Monmouth Peter Fox compared Universal Basic Income to “rapists and murderers” taking money from your wallet on the street.

Let that sink in.

Someone elected to serve as a representative for the people of this country thinks it’s acceptable to use such language about a policy he disagrees with. A policy he’s clearly done very little research on.

Before I address the inaccuracies littered throughout his article, we should all agree that those kinds of remarks have no place in our political discourse. Disagree all you want but leave the scaremongering and hate at the door, Mr Fox.

A Universal Basic Income, or UBI for short, is not a socialist or communist plot. This is a common attack from those on the right.

What they fail to mention is that the godfathers of neoliberalism – Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman – also advocated a form of Basic Income. Friedman was, of course, the economic brains behind Thatcherism.

More recently, the Pope said “UBI could reshape relations in the labour market, guaranteeing people the dignity of refusing employment terms that trap them in poverty. It would give people the basic security they need.”

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If Mr Fox is a man of faith, perhaps the big man giving it the sign-off will change his mind.

The point is that the policy has support from across the political spectrum and throughout civil society. It’s not left or right – it’s forward.

The policy doesn’t have its roots in Alaska, as inaccurately stated by Mr Fox.

It’s true that citizens of the state receive a form of Basic Income. It’s also true that the policy has been a great success – that’s why it’s been going for around 40 years.

But the idea has been around for centuries, first finding fame in Thomas More’s novel 'Utopia'. It’s experienced a renaissance of late following Democrat Andrew Yang’s exciting run for the presidency of the United States.

In the UK, especially in Wales, we've seen a surge in support for UBI because people have realised that our welfare state is no longer fit for purpose.

It was designed at a time when most people had secure, long-term employment. But in an economy where work is becoming more precarious year by year, this system now traps people in poverty rather than helping them to find a way out.

That’s what a UBI aims to do – to give people a chance. It’s a foundation from which everyone can build because they have a guaranteed income that ensures they won't face destitution when times are tough. Everyone will receive a fixed and regular income with no questions asked, regardless of their income, wealth or employment status.

Yes, that means people who don’t need it will receive a UBI. But the richest in society will pay it back through tax. You give with one hand and take it back with the other. This strips away billions of pounds of needless bureaucracy because the state no longer means tests benefits.

The DWP's punitive cut-off points and taper rates will no longer be in place. People will no longer have to jump through hoops to put food on the table.

They won’t have to wait five weeks or more to get their first payment, as with Universal Credit. A Universal Basic Income will always be there for you, from cradle to grave.

We know that UBI works. The pilot in Finland, contrary to what Fox said in his article, found that participants worked more hours than those who did not receive a Basic Income.

The improvement was marginal, but it didn’t go backwards. People didn’t work less and so it completely debunked the myth that everyone would just sit on their backsides and stop working.

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We know from previous pilots around the world that UBI improves school performance, health and wellbeing, community cohesion, reduces crime and so much more. The recent stimulus cheques given to Americans as part of their Covid recovery package saw an increase in small businesses being set up.

These are the kind of outcomes the likes of Peter Fox should be shouting about from the rooftops. A fitter and healthier population means less pressure on our health services and small businesses setting up shop delivers an economic stimulus. It's a win-win.

Those positive findings are precisely why we want to test a UBI in Wales. We're not saying we should roll out the policy tomorrow. But let’s give it a go and see whether the benefits found in other countries emerge here. If they don’t, I’ll hold my hands up and say we got it wrong and that Peter Fox was right.

But I’m confident that won’t happen if we get the Welsh pilot design right. A wide-ranging pilot will show the positive impacts the policy will have on those most in need, as has happened all over the world.

That’s why UBI Lab Cymru, along with the Future Generations Commissioner, WEN Wales, Chwarae Teg and Basic Income Earth Network wrote to the First Minister in July calling on him to design a ‘Care Leavers Plus’ pilot. We’ve also set up a Senedd petition so that the public can support our campaign.

Wales has an opportunity to change the UBI conversation forever. We can once again be the country where a universal policy that cares for people from cradle to grave is born – just like the NHS was more than 70 years ago.

*Jonathan Rhys Williams is the co-founder of UBI Lab Cymru and a solicitor for Watkins and Gunn.

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