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It is clear to me that there is no doubt this Government’s roll-out of universal credit has been a disaster. In my constituency, Rutherglen and Cambuslang food bank has reported a 50% year-on-year increase in demand at the food bank. In the past four months, there has been a 22% increase in demand compared with the previous year; universal credit full service started this time last year. I have spoken to the people who run the food bank, and they do not say, as the Government do, that there are multiple, complex factors for the increase in food bank use; they identify one key culprit: universal credit.
When I asked the Government whether they would consider independent research to investigate the growing use of food banks, they said they would review only existing evidence, not take upon themselves to investigate further. They say that universal credit is about helping people to get back into work and stay in work, citing favourable employment figures, but so many working people who are claiming universal credit are still forced to rely on food banks. If someone is working but cannot afford to put food on the table, that is not a job; it is exploitation.
Instead of citing employment figures that hide the reality, why do the Government not start investigating and reporting the figures on food bank use? Why do the Government not give themselves the target of reversing that increasing reliance? That would be a true measure of success or failure. If they will not do that, the very least they should do is to listen to what we are calling for today. If it is such a good system, let us see the analysis of the impact on household income and debt.
Yesterday, the Employment Minister appeared not fully to understand my question about employees who get paid every four weeks, rather than per calendar month. This has been raised several times this afternoon. These people’s salaries are split across 13 payments in the year, so many people will be paid twice in November. If they are universal credit claimants, that will register as one calendar month during which their earnings have been too high, so they will lose their award across Christmas and will have to reapply afterwards. This system is so good at supporting people into work that it cannot recognise a widely used payroll system.
The Government say that they have a test-and-learn approach, yet from what I can see they are not doing very much learning. Instead, they have sought to tinker around the edges, testing it on people’s lives. I know that Government Members will have constituents who have been blighted by this system. I call on them to do the right thing and support our motion. If they will not do so for their constituents, perhaps they will do so for their party, because this has already been referred to by previous Conservative Prime Ministers as the next poll tax. Please listen to our concerns, ask for the analysis and support the motion.