Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 1:46 pm, 17th October 2018

I want to start my remarks by noting the presence of my right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith, whose decision to drive through this policy was very far-sighted. He was motivated by a desire to make the benefit system fundamentally focus on enabling people to get into work and to make sure that work pays. I think that is incredibly important, and I will say more about that later in my remarks.

I suspect that many of the Members who will speak in the debate will compare universal credit with some mythical universe of perfection where there are no problems. I was first elected to the House in 2005, in the aftermath of the introduction of tax credits. They had been introduced with a big bang, which was a disaster. Nearly half of the recipients were paid the wrong about of money—nearly £2,000,000,000 was paid in error. I had constituents who had been reassured over and over again that the money was theirs to spend, but then Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs came to take it away. I had constituents in tears come to see me in my surgery. Let us not pretend that the legacy benefit system is perfect, because that is not what we are comparing universal credit with; we are comparing it with a legacy benefit system that is flawed and needs to be improved.