Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:14 pm on 20th July 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee, Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 7:14 pm, 20th July 2015

Madam Deputy Speaker, if I leave the Chamber shortly after my speech, I shall come back immediately afterwards to listen to the rest of the debate. I know that there is a huge amount of interest in the Bill.

We now have a more political Chancellor than any I can remember in the whole of my time in the House of Commons, and he has laid traps for us in the Bill. I make a plea to my very hon. Friends not to fall into them. The Government have, however, exposed their soft underbelly in one respect, and we should attack them in that spot. There is a huge difference between giving notice that the terms of a contract will be changed at some point in the future and changing the terms for people who have already bought into it. In the long build-up to the election, as well as during and after it, we heard that the one group of people about which the Conservatives, as a party and as a Government, cared most were the strivers, yet it is the strivers who will feel the worst effects of the Bill.

In tonight’s debate, I want us to unite and launch an offensive against part of the Bill that the Government will not be able to carry in the country. By doing so, we can change the debate on welfare, on work, on productivity and on all the other parts of the Government’s programme. There are more than 3 million people in this country who are in work but whose income is being supplemented by tax credits. They are among the strivers in our society who are going to be walloped by the Bill. Many of them will be a minimum of £1,000 a year worse off. Some will be much worse off than that. We should not be at sixes and sevens in voting for the various amendments tonight. The one message we need to hammer home is that the Government use one language outside the House and a different one to enact legislation inside it. They talk about strivers outside, but the Bill will affect 3 million in-work strivers and make them worse off.

Worse still, it is going to be difficult for us to vote against that particular measure in the Bill, because the Government could well try to enact it by means of a statutory instrument upstairs. If they dare to take the cuts against 3 million strivers outside this main Chamber, I hope we will all learn from the new contingent from Scotland, who do not accept the conventions of this

House, and that we will crowd into that Committee Room and make it very difficult for them to get the measure through. We must send a message to the rest of the country that we are united in our opposition to this unbelievably vicious move against people who have responded to the Government’s plea to become strivers, who are in work and who will find themselves much worse off as a result of the Budget.

My plea to my very hon. Friends is this: please do not have what Aneurin Bevan might have called an “emotional spasm” and try to feel better by simply voting against this, that or the other. The one message tonight is that we must get behind the reasoned amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. Later, we can discuss all the other disadvantages that the Government have put into the Bill, and we can vote against them if we wish to do so. The one message that must go out from the Chamber tonight is that the Government talk loudly about supporting strivers but, when it comes to it, they are proposing to make that group worse off without a second thought. It will be difficult for us to oppose what I see as by far the worst measure in the Bill, but I hope that we can send a united message and not be at sixes and sevens voting to our hearts’ content on all different aspects of the Bill. That is my plea. I shall return to the Chamber as soon as I can to listen to how others develop their own themes on the way in which the Government are making strivers worse off.