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Annual Benefit Cap

Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

19. What recent representations he has received on the setting of an annual benefit cap at £35,000. (119832)

We have received a number of representations on the benefit cap, which will be introduced from 2013 and be set at a maximum of £26,000 net a year. That is about restoring fairness to the system and ensuring that those on benefits no longer receive more in state support than the average earnings of a working family. We have worked hard to identify the households and families that will be affected by the cap well in advance of the April start date. There is additional funding of some £190 million to smooth the transition over the spending review period.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and congratulate him on the work he has done on this issue.

The average salary in my constituency is £22,400, and people cannot understand why anybody would oppose a cap on benefits that is substantially more than they earn to feed their families. A week on Friday I am organising a jobs fair in Burton, which we expect 2,500 people to attend. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important to tell jobseekers that they will always be better off in work than on benefits?

This is one of the most popular programmes that this Government are introducing, and the public genuinely believe that it is the right thing to do. The only group, it seems, who do not think it is the right thing to do are those sitting on the Opposition Benches.

When we recently started dipping into the issue and surveying those who were likely to be affected, it was interesting to find out that, already, well in advance of what is going to happen, about a third of people have admitted that they are out looking for work as a result of the oncoming benefit cap. Some 88% are now up to date with their rent, and 1% have reported having to move.