Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:51 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson Conservative, North Swindon 12:51 pm, 17th November 2016

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, although I have a feeling of déjà vu, as I was talking about this subject only yesterday—no wonder “Groundhog Day” is one of my favourite films. I pay tribute to Neil Gray for his proactive work in this area. When I was a Minister, I enjoyed engaging with him on a number of occasions. He always brought forward real experience and practical suggestions to challenge the Government and hold them to account in this important area. It is also good to see so many Members in the Chamber, on both sides of the House, to engage in this debate—it is a credit to them. That is important, because the Department has excellent Ministers who genuinely do listen, engage, act and influence the direction of policy.

I wish briefly to talk about the background to the current position. Yesterday I talked a lot about universal credit and less about the ESA WRAG, but today I will flip that around. The Government have introduced the national living wage, which has helped 2.75 million of our lowest earners, and we hope that it will rise to more than £9 an hour by 2020. We have increased the personal allowance from £6,495 to £11,000, taking the lowest 3.2 million earners out of paying any income tax. This country has the strongest economic growth of any developed economy, which is delivering record employment, with yesterday’s figures showing another 461,000 people entering work. We have also seen 590,000 more disabled people in work in the past three years—an increase of about 4%—although there is still much further to go.