Welfare Reform Bill

Part of Tied Public Houses (Code of Practice) – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 9th March 2011.

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Photo of Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer 4:44 pm, 9th March 2011

It is a privilege to speak in this debate, and I strongly suspect that our exchanges in the House are being replicated across our country, such is the importance of this matter. People rightly care passionately about Britain’s welfare system, as has been evident from hon. Members’ contributions, but I cannot quite agree with the most recent comments made by Geraint Davies.

A society’s willingness and ability to help its most vulnerable individuals is a measure of its compassion and its economic and social well-being. Ensuring that Britain has an efficient, fair and caring welfare system is key. We do not necessarily have that at the moment, which is why radical and bold change is badly required. I am delighted to support the Bill, as it is radical and bold.

To accept the need for such reform, we must wake up to the facts. Over the past 10 years the welfare budget has grown disproportionately, by more than £56 billion. Despite that huge increase, almost 1.5 million people have been on out-of-work benefits for nine of those 10 years. Despite years of economic growth, job creation and increases in the welfare budget, a whole group of people have never worked at all. It is therefore time to review this broken system. After all, the simple truth is that Britain’s welfare arteries are clogged up. Too little support is reaching those truly in need and too much is being lost in bureaucratic incompetence—even more worryingly, it is being lost on people who should not be in receipt of such support at all.

In essence, the whole culture of our welfare system is wrong; the cost of maintaining it is out of control and the decision-making processes within it are woefully inefficient. The Bill is therefore right to focus on incentivising pathways back to work by ensuring that employment always pays more than benefits. That is fundamental to the Bill and, as a simple Yorkshire man, I feel that it is basic common sense.