Speech: Universal Credit – 16/11/17

Thank you so Mr Deputy Speaker before I begin I'd like to pay tribute to my honourable friend the member for Banff and Buchan, of course I would take issue with his claiming to have the most beautiful seats in Scotland he possibly the most beautiful seat in Aberdeenshire and I would take issue as well and now that I know that that's where the garnets are coming from if you can do us all a favor in the southern most part of the constituency, and keep them up north I'd be very very grateful indeed This is the third time, in I think four weeks, that we've debated universal credit in this chamber and that's not a bad thing indeed it's an issue that affects many of our constituents across the country and it is arguably the biggest reform to welfare since the Beveridge report 1942, so it's right that we spend our time debating this reform

I'm incredibly lucky at this stage of my parliamentary career to sit on the Work and Pension Select Committee On that committee underneath the chairmanship of the member for Birkenhead, whose skill in chairing our committees is a lesson in how to drive a debate I sit alongside some incredibly passionate and learned MPs from all persuasions What unites us I think is the desire to get to the nub of some of the biggest problems and issues facing our welfare system and get answers and find out how we can make it better for our constituents who rely on it I hope and I think this comes through in the report that we're talking about today We all hopefully believe in Universal Credit when we all will it to work as the first page of the report states universal credit has great merits it aims to simplify an over complicated welfare system by combining six benefits into one it improves incentives for people to start paid work or increase their hours and it eases to move into work partly by mirroring the world of work in its operation the report goes on to see implemented properly Universal Credit has the potential to have a genuinely transformative effect on the labour market and make a valuable contribution to reducing poverty and I for one believe the Universal Credit is and can work as I've said before in this house the Universal Credit work report found that 71% of people claiming universal credit found work within the first nine months of their claim which is a rate eight percent higher than that of the comparable job seekers loans and people claiming universal credit on a live service were three percentage points more likely to be in work after three months than those claiming JSA and four percentage points more likely to have been in work six months after starting their claim these numbers look small but actually signify many thousands of lives which are dramatically improved by this policy however out there and in here there are some genuine and serious concerns surrounding elements of the roll out specifically the six-week wait for the first payment and it would be entirely remissive us as a committee on the house to ignore these the committee has hired has put down in the report that we are debating today in the six-week wait has been associated with increases in rent arrears problem debt and food bank use and it does or is the government to aid aim to reduce the standard waiting time for a first universal credit payment to one month but it would be entirely remiss of us not to acknowledge the government has beaten has not been proactive in trying to find solution to those two something to those for those of our constituents that need to help the most or cannot wake the six week period as it stands just now in October in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference the Secretary of State announced that the DWP would make advance payments of universal credit more readily available to those that needed them and as a report says on our visit to the London Bridge Job Center we were all impressed by the ease and speed with which an advance payment could be granted this debate is not supposed to be about whether we should pause or stop the rollout of universal credit as other debates on this issue has been this debate is supposed to be in the content of the report is presented by the working pensions committee and I feel that report is balanced and seeks to give recommendations to the government rather and Julie criticize what we all want to be a successful rollout of a transformational welfare benefit which is right and I believe the government are listening and are doing what we all I think want them to do and that's to press ahead cautiously learning and evolving testing under fighting

I will give of course to my Honourable friend Thank you very much that Honourable friend for listening I'm listening hard because universal credit is soon to come to my constituency I'm very pleased to hear him say that the advance payments helps of the six weeks gap as he looked at the repayment period these advance payments and is there is there enough flexibility in the repayment of the advance payment especially for people who are challenged and to back to work I thank my honorable I thank my honorable friend for intervention I'll be blunt and honest and say that I haven't looked at that in great detail but I would do so and and I will get back through I was I was going to say that the government is listening should be doing what we wanted to do and that's to press cautiously ahead with the rollout Learning and evolving and testing and refining the system as it continues to deliver this important man

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