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Universal Credit

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

Within the time scales set out, our priority is to deliver universal credit safely and securely, and we will set out our plans in more detail in a couple of weeks.

Why did the Secretary of State tell the House last month that his plans for universal credit were on track?

As I said in my earlier answer, I ordered a reset so that we do not have difficulties when we start to roll out the scheme. We have rolled out the pathfinder already. It is important to note that there have been at least six sites from October, and there will be many more around the country when we expand that. As I said, I will make clear to the House the plan and programme for the full roll-out, all the way through to complete delivery, in detail in the next couple of weeks.

The Public Accounts Committee found that leadership of the universal credit programme was hapless. Will the Secretary of State tell us who is responsible for that blunder?

I already take full responsibility for everything that goes on in my Department. I have to say that I take responsibility for making sure that universal credit as originally planned was stopped and reset. Before anybody was affected, we made absolutely sure that when we roll it out, as we have begun and will continue to do, it will deliver maximum benefits of more than £38 billion to the public.

I take no lessons from the Opposition, who spent years rolling out programmes regardless of how they affected people—a disaster on IT for tax credits and a disaster on the health service. A little bit of humble pie on their part might not be a bad thing.

The pathfinder mentioned by the Secretary of State was meant to include 10 separate Jobcentre Plus areas by October this year, but only one has come on line, in addition to those already in place, so there has been a further slowing down of the roll-out of universal credit. Indeed, the ones assessed have been the very simplest cases. When will the Department deliver on its original timetable, far less on any speeded-up timetable?

As I said to the hon. Lady when I appeared in front of her Committee in July, we have been very clear that we would roll out universal credit on the plan and programme already set out. The pathfinders are on track. Those before Christmas and those after Christmas are on track—[Interruption.] Yes they are. It is not just the pathfinder centres; we already have a huge amount of change. We are putting 6,000 new computers into jobcentres to be ready for universal credit, and we are training 25,000 jobcentre staff to ensure that they are ready for its delivery. We are on track to make sure that universal credit—the bit that follows next—can use those pathfinders to deliver a universal credit programme that works, unlike so many of the programmes that the previous Government used.

Dear, dear, dear. [Interruption.] No, the report does not say that; I can tell you what it does say. It says that, precisely in the Government’s timetable, from October 2013

“All new claims for out-of-work support are treated as claims to Universal Credit.”

That has not happened, has it? The Secretary of State is not on time, he is not on budget, and it looks as if he is going to lose £140 million. The first step to recovery is owning up that you are sick. You are not on time, you are not on budget—are you?

Mr Speaker, you are not only on time, but you are always on budget.

That was a lot of sound and fury from the hon. Gentleman, signifying absolutely nothing. The reality is, as I have said quite categorically and publicly, the report could be written because of the actions I took over a year ago to ensure that universal credit will roll out and deliver exactly as we said it would. The hon. Gentleman served for I do not know how many years in a Government who allowed all these other programmes to fail, but not one person will be adversely affected by the change we have made. Universal credit will deliver maximum benefits to the British public, and the Opposition will remain out of government, because they have not a single clue.