Working-age Benefits

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 2018.

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Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 froze the majority of working-age benefits for four tax years from 2016-17. Those provisions will lapse in 2020, and the pre-existing statutory arrangements will come back into force.

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

According to the Resolution Foundation, the value of working-age benefits has fallen by 6.4% since 2014. What does the Minister think it tells us about the Government of which he is a part that the Chancellor’s priority in the Budget was to give a tax cut to higher rate taxpayers like him and me, rather than addressing that?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The reality is that the poorest fifth in society are £400 a year better off in real terms, and the richest fifth in society are £800 worse off.

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

The report from the UN special rapporteur on poverty in the UK was scathing. Professor Alston referred to a

“punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach” and the “misery” that it caused, in relation to the cuts and changes to the social security system, including universal credit and the freeze on benefits. Does the Minister agree with him that in the UK, poverty “is a political choice”?

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We disagreed with the findings, but we did take the opportunity to share our record of delivering record employment, a simplified benefits system that helps some of the most vulnerable people in society and 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty, as well as our proactive work with stakeholders, which is delivering real life opportunities for all in society.