Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee 5:31 pm, 26th February 2019

I hope that long before the Chancellor rises at the Dispatch Box—the position that the Minister will be in when he replies to this debate—he will have made the decision that there will be no more freeze. He will say, I hope, that the freeze will be lifted, and I hope that, from this debate, we will build a movement in the country that convinces him and his Cabinet colleagues that that is the one overriding priority.

There are, however, six other cuts of which I wish to remind the House. The first of those six is the cut in council tax benefit. A total of 4.4 million families have been affected by this cut—of not paying council tax in full—with an average weekly loss of £3.

Let me turn now to sanctions, on which the Select Committee, the House and the Government quite properly indulge in debates. Three million people have been sanctioned since 2012. We know now that a person can be in work and sanctioned. I challenge the Minister to answer this when he replies to the debate: as a person can be sanctioned for not getting a higher income, even though they are in work, will he tell me how many work coaches in DWP have been sent for interviews by their colleagues because, given the amount of benefit that they draw as a result of the wages that they gain from DWP, they will now be sanctioned if they do not improve their income. Sanctions, therefore, form the second cut.

Another cut has come in the form of the lowering of the local housing allowance. Since 2013, 1.4 million of our fellow citizens have suffered an average loss of £50 a week. We are not talking about our salaries; we are talking about people who are earning very, very modest incomes from the benefits system.

On the bedroom tax, 704,000 of our constituents have suffered, on average, a weekly loss of £15 a week. A total of 197,000 households are affected by a benefit cut of between £63 and £73. Then there is the two-child limit, which affects 70,000 households, but which is likely to increase to 600,000, with an average weekly loss of £53. Any one of those cuts causes mayhem to the budgets of poorer people who have no savings—whether they are in work or not in work. I have witnessed in my constituency, as other Members have witnesses in their constituencies, an issue now not of poverty, but of people who struggle with all their might to maintain a roof over their heads.