Newly appointed secretary of state for work and pensions, John Hutton, has said he is determined to press ahead with changes to welfare and pensions.
In Manchester for his first ministerial visit, Hutton said that retreating from the challenge of renewal would mean abandoning the most vulnerable members of the community.
“I am committed to building a modern, active and inclusive welfare state that balances rights with responsibilities; that matches respect of society for the individual with respect by the individual for society; and that, above all, helps people to lift themselves out of dependency and enables them to make their contribution to our society,” he said.
Commentators have said Hutton faces a baptism of fire, with incapacity benefit in dire need of reform and the Turner Pensions Commission reporting at the end of the month.
The minister admitted that responding to Turner’s report – expected to be a complex and wide-ranging document – would be a challenge.
He said: “It’s going to be a big job for me. It’s a hugely important challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Hutton said that his mind was not made up on possible solutions to the pensions crisis: “I haven’t come here to say that this is the Government’s response to the challenge,” he said. “That is something we have to work on.”
Hutton took the post after David Blunkett resigned following a scandal over an apparent breach of ministerial regulations.