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

The hon. Lady is absolutely right; of course, there are lots of people who, for reasons that are totally out of their control, need our support and compassion. No Conservative Member would argue with that. I would argue that we get more money for those people by ensuring that the system has the resource available to devote to those families and those individuals, rather than to those who do not need that support and need to be in work. We have seen a record number of people come into work. We are seeing record female employment. We are seeing a record number of disabled people move into work. We should celebrate all those things. Just as those on the other side are quick to point out the problems with the system—and any system run by Government that is as Byzantine as the welfare system will always throw up hard cases that need to be looked at carefully—we also need to recognise the considerable social policy success that has been represented by helping the equivalent of the entire population of Wales, more than 3 million people, move into work during this Government’s time in office. That is a really important shift and we do not want to see this go backwards because we have changed the incentives in the system.

That is one reason I was so profoundly opposed to the amendments tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr Grieve in this debate. I do not think it was appropriate for this debate and these estimates to be drawn into the context of the Brexit debate. That was profoundly unwelcome. No matter which side of the House someone sits on, we have to try to keep certain aspects of the debate separate. It will be interesting to hear from the shadow Front Bencher what the Labour party’s position would have been had the amendment been accepted and what it would be were a future such attempt to be made. It is important to put on the record that there are some aspects of this debate that are simply more important than the issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union—or not. In truth, the two things are fundamentally discrete.