Universal Credit: Low-income Families

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 2018.

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Photo of Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Labour, Slough 12:00 am, 6th June 2018

What assessment he has made of the effect on low-income families of the roll-out of universal credit throughout Scotland.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

Universal credit is transforming lives across the country. Research also shows that universal credit claimants spend more time searching for work and applying for work than those on previous benefits. It is great news that employment in Scotland is up by more than 190,000 since 2010.

Photo of Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Labour, Slough

People in my constituency and elsewhere, especially low-income families across the UK, have been suffering as a result of the roll-out of universal credit. In Scotland, there have been numerous reports of people having to apply for emergency support, such as crisis grants and food parcels, to meet their immediate needs, because of the six-week waiting period. Does the Minister think there should be such occurrences in the sixth largest economy in the world?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have been careful to roll out universal credit and where changes have been needed, we have made them. What is really important is that 77% of people on universal credit are looking to increase their earnings from work, which compares with a figure of just 51% for those on jobseeker’s allowance. Universal credit is a pathway to work and that can only be a good thing.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Shadow Minister (Scotland)

The roll-out of universal credit and personal independence payments has led to £56 million of cuts in disability payments every year, hitting Scotland’s poorest the hardest. Six out of the 10 worst-hit constituencies are in Glasgow, and the annual loss to disabled people in my constituency is £2 million. If the Secretary of State is really standing up for Scottish interests, what is he doing to stop this atrocious assault on disabled people?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Government are spending billions and billions of pounds on disability payments, and we are ensuring that we give the support to those people who need it most and encourage people in receipt of such benefits who want to work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—[Interruption.]

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Order. There is considerable noise in the Chamber. The Minister is a most courteous fellow who is delivering an informative reply, which very few people can hear. Let us pay him the respect of hearing what he has to say.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

That is very kind of you, Mr Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is also attending the joint ministerial group on welfare this Thursday, where all these issues are discussed regularly.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

Yesterday, I was told by a senior member of the Scottish Prison Service management that discharged prisoners in Scotland are now routinely taken to food banks because prison staff know that the six-week lead-in time for universal credit payments will lead to their using food banks. Does that fact alone not illustrate why the roll-out needs to be paused?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, we made some changes in the Budget, which were announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, following the raising of many of the issues. I should also point out that the Scottish Government do have powers of their own; if they feel they should make further discretionary payments to individuals in Scotland, they have the powers to do so. They have not done so yet.