Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:10 pm on 17th November 2016.

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Photo of Heidi Allen Heidi Allen Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 1:10 pm, 17th November 2016

As all speakers have done so far today, I thank Neil Gray for bringing this debate to the House. I am glad that Members on both sides of the House are contributing to this debate, which is such an important one.

When I look back at my first year as an MP, I cannot think of a vote that has been so regretted by my colleagues on the Government Benches. I remember the pressure we all felt at the end of February, when the ESA WRAG element of welfare reform was being batted between this House and the Lords. I remember the feeling of desperation when this House sent it back. I abstained in the vote as a plea to the Government to rethink their decision, knowing the Lords would have one more opportunity to convince the Government, too. The Lords stuck to their guns and sent it back one more time, and I remember the relief when it did.

As a new MP, I was still trying to understand how the relationship between the two Houses worked, but I was exhilarated that the Lords was willing us on and watching and nudging us like a parent, hoping we would finally do the right thing. However, that sense of optimism was short-lived, as we failed in this House on the Bill’s final return. So few of us on the Government side voted with the Lords on its amendment, because many believed a White Paper was imminent and would describe what alternative support would be made available, and there was a promise of some £l00 million. However, the White Paper never came and the money never came, and I know that some of my colleagues have regretted their vote ever since.