The Secretary of State’S Handling of Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 11th July 2018.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 1:32 pm, 11th July 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Tatton, for her handling of the roll-out of universal credit and her response to the NAO report, Rolling Out Universal Credit;
notes that the Department for Work and Pensions
own survey of claimants published on 8 June 2018 showed that 40 per cent of claimants were experiencing financial hardship even nine months into a claim and that 20 per cent of claimants were unable to make a claim online;
further censures the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for not pausing the roll-out of universal credit in the light of this evidence;
and calls on the Government to reduce the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions’
ministerial salary to zero for four weeks.

The findings of the report “Rolling out Universal Credit” by the National Audit Office, published on 15 June, were damning: universal credit is failing to achieve its aims and there is currently no evidence to suggest that it ever will; it may cost more than the benefits system that it replaces; the Department for Work and Pensions will never be able to measure whether it has achieved its stated goal of increasing employment; and it has not delivered value for money and it is uncertain that it ever will.

The NAO report raised real concerns about the impact on claimants, particularly the delays in payments, which are pushing people into debt, rent arrears and even forcing them to turn to food banks to survive. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions took nearly a week to come to the House to respond to the report on what is the Government’s flagship social security programme and a major public project. When she did so on 21 June, on a Thursday when she knew that many Members would not be able to be here, she undermined the report rather than address the extremely serious issues that it raised.

Her approach was shockingly complacent. It was as though she was oblivious to the hardship that so many people are suffering. She referred to universal credit as an example of “leading-edge technology” and “agile working practices”. She said that it was

“a unique example of great British innovation”

She said:

“Countries such as New Zealand, Spain, France and Canada have met us”— the Department for Work and Pensions—

“to see UC, to watch and learn what is happening for the next generation of benefit systems.”—[Official Report, 21 June 2018;
Vol. 643, c. 491.]

I do hope that they will listen to the testimony given by our Members today.