Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:23 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar 3:23 pm, 2nd July 2019

The hon. Lady makes a very good point about the benefits freeze. That is something to which I intend to return at the end of my remarks. It is unquestionably the case that the benefits freeze has hit people—and hit some people very hard. She is aware of why the benefits freeze was needed: it was needed because of the disastrous condition in which her party left this country’s finances when it left office in 2010.

The DWP is playing its role in helping people back to work and helping them to find, sustain and progress in work. If Members talk to work coaches across the country, they will find that those coaches now have the tools and a service at their disposal to help them to form a working relationship with the people they are seeking to help. They understand that people who come into the jobcentre are, effectively, in work to find work. The agreement of claimant commitments between the jobseeker and the jobcentre creates an environment in which both the work coaches and the people with whom they are working can get results. No one who has spoken to work coaches across the country can doubt in any way that this has been substantial improvement.

Universal credit, as it is rolled out and improved, is helping to make work pay. It has overcome the terrible problems of the 16-hour cut-off that was raised by my hon. Friend Trudy Harrison. It has helped to overcome these crazy marginal tax rates that popped up at different points in the system. Obviously, it is being rolled out in a test and learn environment. As it is tested, so DWP has learned, which means that a range of improvements have been made.

As a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, under the chairmanship of Frank Field, who is no longer in his place, I was particularly pleased that we managed to work with the Government to scrap the seven waiting days, to ensure that people received their money sooner, to see advances of up to 100% on full monthly payments to claimants, and to develop the landlord portal to make it much easier for housing benefit to be sent to landlords and so on and so forth. These are important changes, but I have no doubt that there are still additional beneficial changes to be made. There is further to go—much further to go.

The hon. Member for Wirral South mentioned the benefit freeze. I very much hope that, in the comprehensive spending review at the end of this year, the benefits freeze is ended and the headroom that the Chancellor has built up is put to good use.