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Welfare Reform Bill

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 29 June 2011

4. What assessment she has made of the potential effects on Wales of implementation of the provisions of the Welfare Reform Bill. (61866)

The Bill legislates for the biggest change to the welfare system for more than 60 years. Through our radical reform of the welfare system we are creating a new universal credit which will simplify the system, make work pay and combat worklessness and poverty in Wales and throughout Britain.

Last week, the Royal National Institute for the Blind condemned the Government’s welfare cuts as unfair. This week, bankers have new bonuses. When are the Government going to stop blaming the previous Labour Government, or the next one, for all their problems and start taking responsibility for their own decisions that reward fat cat bankers and cheat those on low pay, the vulnerable and the disabled?

The Government’s welfare reforms are aimed at ensuring that the welfare system will continue to support those in greatest need. That is particularly important in areas of high unemployment, such as those in parts of Wales. This Government are ensuring that never again can it be said that being out of work pays and being in work does not pay. That is what we seek to achieve.

The Welfare Reform Bill devolves the discretionary social fund to local authorities in England. What discussions has the Minister had with colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Welsh Assembly to ensure that after this devolution the residents of Wales will still have access to the support and financial assistance that they need?

The hon. Lady raises an important question. We are committed to full consultation with the Welsh Government on the devolved implications of these reforms.

The Government told Parliament that the cost of disability living allowance will be cut by a fifth—or 20%. Will the Minister tell the House what loss of income that might mean for the average DLA claimant in Wales and how many will be affected?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the programme is aimed at helping people get into work, including those who are in receipt of DLA. It is essential that the interests of those in receipt of DLA are properly protected, which is what this Government are committed to doing.

The truth is that the Minister has not got a clue about how to answer that question, so let me help him out. Calculations backed by figures from the House of Commons Library suggest that the average reduction will be £14 per week for 125,000 DLA claimants in Wales, which amounts to a total of £90 million a year or more than £700 each. Has he any idea how much suffering that will cost when we also take into account sky-high VAT, food and petrol prices? The truth is that under this Government, rich bankers are coining it while the most vulnerable and needy are punished. It is the same old nasty Tories. When will he and the Secretary of State stand up for the people in Wales?

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the reforms that we have in hand are caused in large measure by the fact that his Government completely destroyed the economy of this country and ensured that it did not pay to work? Our reforms will ensure that those in receipt of DLA will be properly taken care of, but we will also make certain that those who can work will work, and that work will pay.