Universal Credit and Debt — [Sir Henry Bellingham in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:03 pm on 5th June 2019.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 3:03 pm, 5th June 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Sir Henry. I thank my hon. Friend Ruth George for securing this debate, and for her excellent speech setting out the issues. In the time I have, it is not possible to repeat the arguments, but it is clear from the experiences hon. Members have related, from all parts of the United Kingdom, that universal credit is not working.

The Trussell Trust is heavily involved in this debate, and it supports the points put by my hon. Friend, particularly regarding the five-week wait. This subject comes up frequently. In both Houses in the past year, there have been 1,858 references, 70 debates, seven written statements and two Divisions on universal credit, yet we do not seem to be any further forward.

The overwhelming majority of experiences quoted in debates and put forward in questions about universal credit are negative. There is no doubt that it is increasing hardship. The Government must recognise the problems being caused. It has been suggested that it is a flexible and personalised system offering unprecedented support, but that is clearly not the case. We need firm action from Ministers, not just assurances about mitigating the worst effects.

In the few seconds remaining, I ask the Minister whether he thinks it is reasonable, when people are facing such dreadful financial hardship, for the Department to spend over £23 million advertising universal credit in a single newspaper, the Metro? I feel that is a shocking waste of money. [Interruption.] I have received a written parliamentary answer from the Department showing that it is true. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on that.