Universal Credit

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th October 2018.

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Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee 12:00 am, 15th October 2018

What steps the Government have taken to improve universal credit since autumn 2017.

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We are constantly improving universal credit in response to feedback and have implemented a wide-ranging package of improvements worth £1.5 billion, some of which my hon. Friend campaigned for. We will continue to do that when we need to.

Photo of Stephen McPartland Stephen McPartland Chair, Regulatory Reform Committee

Universal credit can work only if it is fully funded. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the effective tax rate of 63p in the pound for people moving into work is set at a punitive level and that the Treasury should loosen the purse strings for her?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My hon. Friend is always a good campaigner on these causes and we of course meet to discuss these matters. At the moment, the taper rate is 63%, as he says, but it was over 90% under the legacy system. We have dropped it considerably and when we can, when the economy is on a sounder footing, we will seek to drop it even further to make sure that work pays, which is something this Conservative Government do.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

The Secretary of State says that universal credit is constantly improving, but unfortunately the number of people coming to my office for food bank vouchers is constantly increasing. More and more of the people coming are families with kids. The public are angry. Has the Secretary of State made an assessment of how many families using food bank vouchers are lone parents with children?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The hon. Lady raises a good question about what happened under the previous Labour Government—[Interruption.] Can I just put this on the record, Mr Speaker? Under the previous Labour Government—[Interruption.] Labour Members are huffing, puffing, tutting and shaking their heads, but the number of households where no one had ever worked doubled under Labour. That is where the problem started and we are changing that. It has been a quick change—to 3.4 million people in work—and we have to help those people now to get a higher income, which we are doing.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The Secretary of State knows that one of the difficulties with trying to correlate the people on universal credit with those who go to food banks is that there is no precise data to compare the two. I know anecdotally that the number of foreigners claiming food bank vouchers is quite high. Is there a state at which we can, with the Trussell Trust, arrange to have data that tells us much more about who is going to food banks and what sort of help they need, including DWP people in their food banks?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Of course we have to understand the underlying issues and problems and support people as best we can. I met the Trussell Trust and various poverty groups and we have talked about how we best support families. We believe that the best way to support a family out of poverty is by getting them into work—hence why I pointed out that, under the previous Labour Government, the number of households where no one ever worked doubled. This Government believe that work is the best way out of poverty and we will continue helping people.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

One million householders, 750,000 disabled people, 600,000 working single parents, 600,000 self-employed people and 300,000 families with three or more children will all be worse off under universal credit. Will the Secretary of State finally admit that, for these people, austerity is far from over?

Photo of Esther McVey Esther McVey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I have said that, under this benefit, what we sought to do was get more people into work, because that is the best way out of poverty, and that is what we have done. We are helping 1,000 people each and every day into work. We also said that we would make this benefit fair to the taxpayers, who are paying for it, and fair to those claimants, and that is what we are doing.