We now come to the second Select Committee statement. The procedure is the same as for the previous statement.
I hope I will also leave the House silenced by my report, and I hope to do so in record speed.
The House passed a motion on
Mr Speaker, I request your help on two fronts. First, this huge project—huge in Government finance and huge in what it might do to our constituents—is based on no business case at all. I am therefore pleased to see my friend John Glen, who is now the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, sitting on the Treasury Bench. I ask through you, Mr Speaker, that he does not approve further development of universal credit until the Treasury has received the business case from his colleague the Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma.
Secondly, the project assessment reviews talk about the industrialisation of claims. This is the roll-out of a benefit that is, to put it at its kindest, hit and miss. The problems that our constituents could face are beyond imagination, and the cost to taxpayers will be enormous. Mr Speaker, at another time, might I seek your help in getting time to allow many more Members of the House of Commons to comment on how universal credit is affecting, or not affecting, their constituents?
I end by thanking you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to present the Select Committee’s report to the House.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his report. I have appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee in the past few days, and a number of the points raised in the report were raised in that session. I will of course consider the report, and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury has indicated that we will work closely together on reviewing its content.
Universal credit was designed to smooth the transition into work and to help lift people out of poverty. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that, more than seven years after universal credit was first announced, and after repeated resets and delays, it is clear that the Government still cannot provide evidence for their key claim that people claiming universal credit will be more likely to find employment? I mean not just single unemployed people without children, before cuts to work allowances, who appear in the statistics that the Government cite, but the full range of people—single parents, the self-employed, carers and disabled people—who are now claiming universal credit as the full service is rolled out.
I am immensely grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, because the central part of any business case for universal credit is that there will be a movement from benefits into work. We know the Government have no up-to-date data on that, yet they are pressing ahead. That is why I asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury not to sanction further cash for this programme until the Department for Work and Pensions has produced a business case.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman, the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, for his work on this report. Given the key economic assumption underlying universal credit—the claim that it will deliver much improved employment outcomes for the vast range of people who claim it—and given that a full business case for the biggest reform of the welfare state in 50 years has not been made, does he share my concern that claimants have been pushed into dire financial straits because universal credit is simply not fit for purpose? We know the Government say that they are confident about the progress of universal credit, but does he agree that there needs to be more openness about this internal review?
There needs to be some internal sharing of information with the Treasury, if the Department has it, and the Treasury should put a stop to any expansion until it gets the business case. I underscore what the hon. Lady says: our constituents will be on the rough end of this if it all goes wrong.