New Clause 2 — Childcare

Part of Welfare Reform Bill (Programme) (No. 2) – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 13th June 2011.

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Photo of Tom Greatrex Tom Greatrex Shadow Minister (Scotland) 7:15 pm, 13th June 2011

I listened with interest to Guto Bebb, who said that this debate reminded him of the Committee stage of the Bill. I feel a bit like an intruder, because I did not serve on that Committee. I am not sure whether he meant that he was enjoying the experience or enduring it.

I want to make a few remarks about new clause 6. I am not sure whether it comes into the category of superfluous detail to which the Minister referred—or blessed detail, as one of his hon. Friends described it—or deals with something that was considered in Committee. Last week, I had a discussion with people at Rutherglen and Cambuslang housing association in my constituency, who are concerned about the payment of the housing element of universal credit and the changes that are being made to the current arrangements on direct payments. As someone who is not an expert in these matters, the new clause seems to me to draw a good balance between the desire to try to ensure that universal credit gives people responsibility for the money that they receive and protecting the interests of tenants of social landlords and the effectiveness of social landlords such as the housing association I mentioned and, I am sure, many others around the country. The new clause would allow the housing element of universal credit to be paid directly to the landlord if the person in receipt of universal credit requests it or if the tenant is in considerable arrears.

Social landlords are worried that income streams might be significantly reduced because households facing financial constraints as a result of rising food and fuel prices and other calls on their budgets which may be greater in future choose to spend the money received from universal credit on items other than rent, for which the housing component of universal credit is primarily designed.