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Universal Credit (Liverpool)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:19 am on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 11:19 am, 11th September 2018

I congratulate Dan Carden on securing today’s debate. I apologise to the House that the Minister for Employment is not able to be here, so I am deputising on his behalf.

We are introducing universal credit at a time when record numbers of people are in work and unemployment is at its lowest rate in more than 40 years. Since 2010, 1,000 jobs a day have been created, and in the north-west region more than 3.4 million people are employed, up 268,000 since the 2010 general election. The north-west employment rate is 74.3%, up from 68.7% in 2010. Nationally, according to the labour market statistics released today, the unemployment rate is now 4%—it has not been lower since 1975—and the employment rate is 75.5%, which is again a near-record high.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, and it is also an opportunity for me to make the point that, nationally, the number of children living in workless families is down 608,000 since 2010. As of March 2018, the employment rate of people aged 16 to 64 in Liverpool itself was 67.6%, up from 60.3% in March 2010, and in Merseyside, as of March 2018, the employment rate had increased from 64.2% before the 2010 election to 70.2%.

Turning to the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, I will try to address the issues relating to universal credit. As I am not the Minister, I may not be able to answer the specific questions raised, but, as Maria Eagle has been artfully demonstrating to me across the Chamber, I will write to hon. Members, or the Department will write to them, on the specific questions they raised.

The Government believe that universal credit remains a vital reform. It replaces an outdated and complex benefit system; the six benefits are replaced with one simple monthly universal credit payment, designed to support people whether they are in or out of work. There is no doubt that the old system did not incentivise people to come off benefits and get into work.