Welfare Reform Bill

Part of Tied Public Houses (Code of Practice) – in the House of Commons at 1:42 pm on 9th March 2011.

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Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 1:42 pm, 9th March 2011

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That”
to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, whilst affirming its belief in the principle of simplifying the benefits system and good work incentives, declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform Bill because the proposal of the Universal Credit as it stands creates uncertainty for thousands of people in the United Kingdom;
because the Bill fails to clarify what level of childcare support will be available for parents following the abolition of the tax credit system;
because the Bill penalises savers who will be barred from the Universal Credit;
because the Bill disadvantages people suffering from cancer or mental illness due to the withdrawal of contributory Employment Support Allowance;
because the Bill contains no safeguards to mothers in receipt of childcare support;
because it proposes to withdraw the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance from people in residential care and fails to provide sufficient safeguards for future and necessary reform;
because it provides no safeguards for those losing Housing Benefit or appropriate checks on the Secretary of State’s powers;
because it fails to clarify how Council Tax Benefit will be incorporated in the Universal Credit system;
because it fails to determine how recipients of free school meals and beneficiaries of Social Fund loans will be treated;
and because the proposals act as a disincentive for the self-employed who wish to start up a business;
and is strongly of the opinion that the publication of such a Bill should have been preceded by both fuller consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny of a draft Bill.”

I start with a word of thanks to the Secretary of State for meeting me and my right hon. Friend Stephen Timms a week or so ago to discuss the Bill. As I said to him then, we genuinely want to approach the vital question of welfare reform in a spirit of national consensus. We believe that if we can forge such a consensus it will be good for our country, it will reduce the deficit and, crucially, as he said before he sat down, it will be good for the fight against poverty in this country. We have been forced to table the amendment to oppose the Bill because it fails such fundamental tests that we believe the Government should go away and bring back a better Bill that will deliver genuine and lasting welfare reform.

We could begin to forge that national consensus by drawing the right lessons from the past 13 years. The Secretary of State presented his view, but elided one or two prominent features of the past 13 years, such as the fact that the number of people on out-of-work benefits before the depression came down by 1 million and the fact that the claimant count halved. We did not once, let alone twice, see unemployment go through the 3 million mark. We can draw important lessons for this debate from that period, the first of which is that if the Secretary of State wants welfare to work to work, we need more jobs. Labour consistently put that approach in place.

The Secretary of State said to his spring conference at the weekend—