Welfare Reform Bill

Part of Tied Public Houses (Code of Practice) – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 9th March 2011.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 2:26 pm, 9th March 2011

Yes, it is in the Bill. The sanctions are about making the Work programme work. It will not work without sanctions and without the measures in the Bill. To deny the Work programme to people all over the country who should have help into work would be a big mistake. The right hon. Gentleman should support the principle behind the Bill.

My third point is that it is essential to make proper training available so that people can avail themselves of those training opportunities and then get the jobs that are available in this country. There are 500,000 jobs advertised in the jobcentres every month, but many of them are jobs for which people do not have the necessary skills. To introduce a system, through the “black box”, that will enable people to acquire those skills and get into those jobs is something good, and it is something that the right hon. Gentleman should support.

As for whether jobs are available, when the right hon. Gentleman’s party were in government many jobs were created, as he said, but the problem is that many of them went to people who were not from this country and had not been languishing on benefits for years. Members of the Select Committee visited Burnley earlier this week and we met people who were being helped to move from benefits into work. We found that many of them did not like the work capability assessments, so I hope that it will be possible for the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend Chris Grayling to make the Harrington changes before that scheme is rolled out nationally. I see him nodding. Some people there had not worked for 10 years, and said that they were pleased to have the opportunity to be trained and to look for a job.

Burnley is not an area where there are as many jobs as there are in Hertfordshire, which I represent, but even in areas where there are not many jobs, it is wrong to say to someone who could work, “No, we’re not going to do anything about it; we’re not going to train you; we’re not going to give you those chances; we’re not going to provide the Work programme.” By denying this Bill a Second Reading, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill would be depriving people of all those things.

Let us take some of the other issues that the right hon. Gentleman raised, such as child care. The Secretary of State has said from the Dispatch Box that there will be child care; the black box works only if child care is available. Support for single parents to get into work is necessary, but it is to be provided. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about the details in Committee, we would all fully understand that. I believe that it is a mistake for him to try to deny this Bill a Second Reading.

Time is whizzing by, but I would like to make two further points. Child support is an important issue in the Bill, and it has been troubling for a long time. If single parents are to get into work, it is important for them to be able to rely on child support payments coming in. America has a system whereby, once the figure is set, it is automatically deducted from the salary of the parent who has to pay it. In this country we have always denied that possibility, and said that we should not do that. However, if we are to say to many lone parents, “Look, we really want you to go to work”—and we shall be saying that to a lot more lone parents—we must find ways of ensuring that the essential payments from the other parent come through.