Are the Lib Dems moving towards advocating a citizens' basic income? Though this speech by Ming Campbell doesn't explicitly say so, the move is implicit, in two senses.
One is in the wholly admirable desire to simplify both welfare benefits and tax credits.
The second sense is that three of his objectives seem compatible only with something like a CBI. These are:
1. To raise out-of-work benefits; he complains that "the safety net is not only riddled with holes, but is also set too close to the ground."
2. "Halving the number of people facing effective tax rates of more than 60%."
3. "To make work pay."
The thing is, under orthodox welfare systems, there's a tension between these three. If you want to make work pay and raise the safety net for non-workers at the same time, you've got to pay more generous in-work benefits or tax credits. Which means you've got to withdraw such benefits as people's incomes rise. That naturally implies high effective tax rates. I guess you could keep most effective rates below 60%, but that means paying in-work benefits even at quite high incomes. This would be expensive.
This is where a CBI fits in. In paying this to everyone unconditionally, no-one loses benefits when they move into work. So work pays, and poorer workers will face lower effective tax rates. Objectives 2 and 3 can therefore be reconciled.
Can this be done whilst also achieving objective 1? I guess it would be expensive. But there's room for spending cuts as well as tax rises...