Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:05 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 3:05 pm, 2nd July 2019

I would not ascribe it to the hon. Lady’s speech, but I have heard speeches in this place from Labour Members that have come very close to blurring the line between the policy and the people. There is sometimes a real determination to make people afraid of their experience of programmes such as universal credit by stoking up concerns, rather than pointing out the progress on rolling out this fundamentally important reform, which originally enjoyed the Opposition’s support—mainly because it is the right thing to do.

The hon. Lady rightly referred to the Beveridge principle of a welfare state that acts as a strong safety net to help those in need when the chips are down. That is not what we had under the last Labour Government, when the cost of welfare benefits rose by some £84 billion—an enormous sum of money. Welfare has to be fair to the taxpayer, as well as to recipients. This is an important issue. The balance was lost, and the public knew it was lost.

That was one reason, among many, why we won the 2010 general election. There was a widespread perception that the welfare system had strayed from its moorings and was no longer necessarily about helping people into work, or helping them to stay in work longer. For too many, it allowed a lifestyle based on the trap of dependency—my hon. Friend Trudy Harrison referred to that trap. For too many people, the logical incentive created by the system was not to work, or not to work more hours. There was nothing kind or moral about that. It was, in fact, profoundly the opposite, as the system did not help people take the true route out of poverty, which is, of course, work.