I rise to make a statement about the new announcements on the roll-out of the next part of universal credit. Universal credit is a major reform, transforming the welfare state in Britain for the better and bringing £35 billion in economic benefits to the UK. Rightly, for a programme of this scale, the Government’s priority continues to be its safe and secure delivery. That is why, after the successful launch of the pathfinder in April 2013, a controlled expansion of universal credit has been taking place since last year, and in the north-west since June—first to singles, then couples, extending to families from today, across Birkenhead, Warrington, Bromborough, Upton, Wallasey and Hoylake.
In addition, universal credit is live in 81 jobcentres. National roll-out will follow from next year, bringing universal credit to one in three jobcentres by spring 2015. This careful, controlled expansion is the right approach, testing and learning as we go, avoiding some of the big bang failures that have dogged programmes in the past.
Already, universal credit is delivering major benefits. The early results show that the majority of recipients agree that it is easier to understand, easier to claim and provides a better financial incentive to work. I know that many colleagues have visited those centres and will testify to that. People are spending almost twice as much time looking for work as they were before and, above all, universal credit is on track to help them move out of unemployment more quickly, with those in the new system reporting that they are working more over a six-month period than those on jobseeker’s allowance.
Ensuring that work always pays, universal credit will generate up to an additional 300,000 people in work once fully rolled out. Some 3 million households are set to gain by £177 on average and 500,000 working families will receive more help with child care, with 100,000 of those in part-time work or mini jobs benefiting for the first time from entry into work. With the rate of child care support increased from 70% to 85% of costs, parents can receive up to £646 for one child, and £1,108 for two or more children. It is important to point out that that is the element of the roll-out in this particular area and that it covers all the hours that they will be in work—unlike the present system, which puts them only in certain batches of hours.
The number of people reaping those benefits is set to grow exponentially as the universal credit roll-out ramps up. The latest published statistics—up to November—show that nearly 40,000 have made a claim for universal credit, over 20,000 have completed that process and gone on to receive universal credit, and 17,850 are on universal credit currently. Illustrating the scale of the increase, nearly 6,000 claims were made in the month between October and November—over five times as many as there were in June, before we started the north-west expansion.
At the same time, we are bringing forward changes to legacy benefits. That is a ripple effect of the massive cultural shift that universal credit delivers. Around 1 million jobseeker’s allowance claimants have now signed a claimant commitment, which is part of universal credit, making unequivocal once and for all the deal between those looking for work and the taxpayers who support them. That is the massive cultural change that universal credit entails.
Our plans to deliver universal credit are on track, taking the same approach that has delivered success so far, rolling out once we are confident in our capacity and capability. The plans have been assured by the Major Projects Authority, the independent body advising the Government, just as the universal credit business case has now been signed off by the Treasury. The current business case assumes that the last claims to legacy benefits will be accepted during 2017. Following that, the stock of remaining cases will progressively decline, with the rest migrated to universal credit. Should there be no change in the labour market outlook or the pace at which claims are migrated, the current business case assumes that the bulk of this will be complete by 2019.
Our careful approach is set to deliver universal credit under budget, with implementation costs down from £2.4 billion to £1.8 billion, according to the latest figures. The value of the programme to date is unmistakably clear, I hope. Specifically, the investment in IT has a value that hugely outweighs the cost. There are over £130 million-worth of universal credit assets on the balance sheet, as agreed by the National Audit Office. That IT is being used day in, day out, and it will continue to be used even as we start to test an enhanced digital solution from this week. Our decisions will continue to be informed by that digital development.
The important point is that this is about de-risking the roll-out, which the MPA agrees is happening now as a result of this programme. I believe that that represents value for money. It is delivering the maximum benefit from this vital process of welfare reform, renewing work incentives, restoring fairness and rebuilding a welfare system fit for the 21st century.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. However, the announcement in this morning’s press release confirms that universal credit is rolling out at a glacial pace. It is just another example of Tory welfare waste. We all know that simplifying and integrating our benefits system has the potential to help people into work and to progress in work. That is why the Opposition have always supported the principle of universal credit and want it to succeed, despite the Secretary of State’s best attempts to make a complete and utter shambles of it.
The Secretary of State has already informed the House that universal credit would be rolled out to families with children this year, but today’s statement tells us nothing more about how many families will be claiming it, in which areas of the country, and whether that will include families with someone in work or families with a disabled member. We were told that at the beginning of next year universal credit would be rolled out to all jobcentres across the country. That has now turned into one in three jobcentres by next spring, but we still do not know which jobcentres, in which parts of the country, whether those jobcentres themselves have been informed and, more importantly, whether local partners, including councils and voluntary sector organisations, which have such a critical role to play in making the roll-out work, have been informed.
However, there was one new revelation buried at the bottom of this morning’s press release: an admission from the Secretary of State that the delivery of this policy will now not be completed until the end of the decade, if then, with only “the bulk” of claimants on legacy benefits transferred by 2019. Let us remind ourselves what the Secretary of State said he would deliver four years ago so that we can see how far plans have gone astray. The White Paper presented to the House in 2010 set out a timetable for
“completing the transfer to Universal Credit by October 2017”.
Since then, the Secretary of State’s timetable has repeatedly slipped, despite repeated assertions that the project was
“on time and on budget”.
In November 2011 the Secretary of State said that he would have 1 million people on universal credit by April 2014. The truth turned out to be just 1% of that figure. The Government told us that they would have 1.7 million people on universal credit by May 2015, but his latest target is for just 100,000 to be on the system by then. As recently as this month, he was insisting that the transfer of all claimants to universal credit would be completed in 2018.
On 5 November, less than three weeks ago, he said in evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce), that
“we do envisage Universal Credit being complete by the end of 2018.”
Yet buried at the bottom of today’s press release we find the admission that only
“the bulk of this exercise will be complete by 2019”.
I hope that the Secretary of State can answer the following questions and give us some clarification and assurance. First, what on earth does he mean by “the bulk”? Is it a new statistical term that we can appeal to the UK Statistics Authority for clarity on? More importantly, given the concerns and the amount of public money at stake, can he not be more precise about how many people he expects to be left on legacy benefits after 2019? Which claimants will those be, and when can we expect them to be transferred on to universal credit?
Secondly, what are the implications of this further delay in the completion of the roll-out and transfer for the project’s administrative costs and the expected savings and benefits being claimed? Can the Secretary of State confirm that the estimate of £35 billion for the project’s benefits remains correct, and has the full business case now been signed off by HM Treasury?
Thirdly, why did the Secretary of State claim on the BBC’s “Today” programme this morning that “almost 40,000” people are “actually claiming” universal credit when the latest figures show that the current caseload is 17,850? Fourthly, can the Secretary of State tell us how many families he expects to be receiving universal credit by the end of 2014 and by May next year? Will only families with both parents out of work be able to claim? Will families including a disabled member be able to claim by May 2015?
Fifthly, will the Secretary of State place in the House of Commons Library a full list of the “one in three” jobcentres that he expects to be handling universal credit claims by the spring? Sixthly, will the extension of universal credit to families with children, and to jobcentres, be on the new digital platform being developed by the Department, or will it still be running on the old system that we know is inadequate for handling large-scale caseloads? Finally, would the Secretary of State care to repeat his claim that this programme is
“on time and on budget”?
I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to answer those simple and fundamental questions about a programme that was held up as the Government’s flagship welfare reform and has already eaten through more than half a billion pounds of public money. If he cannot give straight answers to straight questions, Members of this House and voters will be forced to conclude that, as with the delays we have seen with disability benefits, the failure of the Work programme and the Youth Contract to help key groups into work, and the failure to tackle the low pay, insecurity and housing shortages that are driving up benefit bills, this is just adding to the legacy of Tory welfare waste—wasted money, wasted time, wasted talents and a wasted opportunity to get our economy and our social security system working for all the people of our country.
I must say that I think that the hon. Lady thought that up about a week ago, before she even got near what I have just said in the statement, but never mind—she likes to rehash the old ones, and we will deal with them. She made the point at the end of her statement that somehow the Work programme is not working. The Work programme is outperforming all of the figures that it was meant to. It is also outperforming what we were left by the previous Labour Government: record unemployment and more people who had lost work as a result of their crashed economy. We have more people in work than ever before and more young people now returning to work. Those are the standing plans.
Let me deal with some of the other issues the hon. Lady raised. She talked about what we are doing on universal services. We have already undertaken a huge amount of consultative processes with local authorities and all other partners in the areas. We have a programme called universal services, to be delivered locally, and we are working closely with the Local Government Association in trialling all sorts of elements of that, including the exchange of information on housing, which is an area that previously was not working. The LGA is represented on the programme of governance, the partnership forum and the universal credit transition working group. As universal credit is expanded nationally, delivery partnership agreements will be established locally so that local authorities, jobcentres, landlords and employers can adjust their requirements to prepare for the UC roll-out. That is taking place at the moment and it is helping to inform hugely the process of helping to improve the nature of the roll-out.
As I said in my statement—I repeat this because the hon. Lady seemed not to have picked it up—40,000 people had claimed, over 20,000 had completed the claim process, and 17,500 were currently on universal credit. [Interruption.] No, that is exactly what they have done. Forty thousand had claimed, 20,000 had made the claim and received—[Interruption.] I do not want to go through this nonsense with her. Let me remind her that many of those who started a claim went to work and therefore never completed the process. In case she thinks it is not worth people claiming the benefit because they are not staying on it, our position is that the purpose is to get them off the benefit and into work.
I will be happy to give the hon. Lady a list of the one in three jobcentres that will be covered by the spring. As I said, by the end of this year one in eight jobcentres will be covered. Families will be included. Depending on the type of claimants and their particular issues, they will be dealt with in jobcentres as the benefit is rolled out to them. The timing and delivery remain exactly as they were.
As we have announced today, we will also be rolling out the first part of the digital trial process, and that will inform us hugely on how we will be able to roll out and expand the system. The hon. Lady said that I had only just announced the timing of the roll-out, but in fact I had said it previously. She might want to ask the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), who is sitting next to her, about that. All the dates were in the answer to a parliamentary question from him about a week and a half ago; I cannot remember the exact date. Nothing has been hidden at all—we have been very clear about it.
The long-term strategic outline business case covers the lifetime of the programme from 2023 to 2024 and provides even more granular detail on costs and benefits and delivery planning until, it is expected, 2025. The MPA has approved our roll-out plans and given them a very strong sign-off.
The hon. Lady asked about the information that will be shared automatically. Claimants are asked to give consent to our universal credit teams sharing information about their claims with local authorities to help to highlight extra support that may be needed.
The hon. Lady says that she is in favour of universal credit in principle, but she has voted against it and attacked every single thing to do with it, just as Labour Members say they are in favour of welfare reform in principle but attack and vote against every single part of what we are doing. I have to say that the way she is going, she will get a lot of practice at being in opposition.
I commend my right hon. Friend for the methodical way in which he is going about the implementation of universal credit. My constituents suffered from over-payments, under-payments and mis-payments under tax credits because Labour in government botched the implementation of the system by doing it as one big bang. We cannot afford the same thing to happen in this case. That is why he is absolutely right to introduce in the way that he is to make sure that it works before it is rolled out further. We should be commending him for that and for not repeating Labour’s mistakes.
I thank my hon. Friend; he is exactly right. We have worked on this together. As he knows very well, taking the early decisions to ensure that the programme rolls out safely and securely is far more important than, as the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) seems to suggest, rattling ahead regardless of the consequences. That is exactly what happened with tax credits, where, on day one, 400,000-plus people did not receive any benefits. The disaster of tax credits has stayed with us ever since.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the reason the volumes are so low is that only the simplest cases in the simplest groups are covered? Although it has been rolled out to families, they will still be only the simplest and easiest-to-deal-with families. Given that 250,000 jobseeker’s allowance claims are usually made every month, I wonder how he thinks we are going to get from today’s position of having had 20,000 claims in over a year to having 250,000 in a month. It seems quite a task to get the volumes up to that level and to be able to roll it out across the whole country.
As the hon. Lady knows, we started with single people, but whenever somebody’s circumstances changed—they may have become a couple or had a family—they stayed in the system and have been dealt with. It is not correct, in any way, to say that these are the simplest cases. The roll-out to families introduces further complications, but we are doing this in way that makes sure that we get it right. By the end of this year, the north-west will have universal credit, so if someone falls unemployed and then goes into work, they will do so on universal credit. That is the key point. All the complications will be dealt with within the existing system.
That is exactly what was being asked before the summer break, and the answer is that the Treasury has done that. The MPA has also signed off the roll-out process in saying that it de-risks the nature of the roll-out and approves it exactly as it stands at the moment.
Somewhat unusually, but fortunately, the House was not subjected this afternoon to a self-serving sermon in the guise of a statement. Does the Secretary of State have as a principle the idea that promises, like pie crusts, are made to be broken? Every promise he has made at that Dispatch Box about the cost of implementing and rolling out universal credit has been broken, so is today’s semi-statement merely more porky pies in the sky?
I will not follow the mixed metaphors about pies and pie crusts in the sky; I usually like them on a plate myself. The hon. Lady has a choice to make. I would much rather make it clear that we want to deliver this thing safely and securely. After all, we have listened to the MPA and we had the National Audit Office in to look at it last year. We took all the advice, and we are rolling it out in the way that it should be rolled out. I have to say—this is not arrogance—that I believe that future Government programmes will be best rolled out using the test-and-learn process that is securing these roll-outs. That is the right way. Let us get this safely and securely rolled out, not smashed to pieces like tax credits on day one.
I thank the Secretary of State for coming to the House to update us and explain exactly what the situation is with universal credit. Four million people spent most of the last decade trapped on out-of-work benefits. Universal credit is already giving people the opportunity to get back into work more effectively. Why on earth would a Labour Government want to halt these vital reforms for three months when a full roll-out has been approved by the Major Projects Authority? Surely we should be hearing from Labour Members how they would help us to support this being brought forward even more rapidly.
Of course it is legitimate, as it always is, for the Opposition to question this. All I am saying is that we have taken the decisions to ensure the security and safety of the roll-out. We will not take any decision unless it is clear that it is the right thing to do, and we want to deliver this safely and securely. The experience of those who are on universal credit is getting better. We now find that word of mouth from those groups is so good that people are going into jobcentres wanting to claim universal credit rather than be on jobseeker’s allowance.
Having listened very carefully to the Secretary of State’s statement, I wonder whether he is playing a rather worrying political trick by making a statement on the day before the NAO brings out its publication on progress on universal credit. He well knows that there are huge risks with the value for money of the project and substantial potential for waste of taxpayers’ money. For example, if there are further delays in the implementation of the digital programme, taxpayers will have to continue to pay for the expensive, mainly manually operated live service. Why does he not, just for once, give us an open and straightforward account of the state of play?
I am sorry that the right hon. Lady takes that view. She may not know the genesis of the statement, so perhaps I can explain it to her. Labour Front Benchers asked for an urgent question today, and I gather that it was negotiated between the various authorities that there would be a statement, not a UQ, because there were to be some very important statements today. The Speaker made that decision, which is quite correct. The reason I am here today is that I was originally asked to be here by the Opposition.
In answer to the right hon. Lady’s question, I fully respect the NAO and we listen carefully to what it has to say. She knows that she will have its team before her when she undertakes the inquiry process. I cannot second-guess what is in tomorrow’s report, but my general belief and hope is that it will welcome this as being the right direction, the right process and the right prioritisation of safe delivery that makes sure that we do not waste money. In cost terms, as I said, we will be spending less, at £1.8 billion, than we were originally set to spend.
On migrants, we have already made it clear that universal credit is a different type of benefit, so people who come here and are out of work will not be able to claim it as a benefit. The issue of how migrant workers can claim in-work support will be negotiated. We are clear that, under universal credit, family benefits will not be paid to people who are not accompanied by their family, so we will secure such claims, thus cutting costs. On fraud, the automatic processes that check what people are earning and whether they are in work mean that we will cut down on all the fraud related to tax credits.
Given that the Department is such a fan of safe and secure roll-out, it is a pity that it did not take a similar view to the personal independence payment. A lot of people were treated like guinea pigs while it was being rolled out—that topic is being debated in Westminster Hall as we speak. The Secretary of State must be aware that 61% of the current claimants of universal credit are under 24 years old. They are the simplest of cases and, after such a long period, 17,000 is a very small number indeed. We have been hearing the “safe and secure” mantra for at least two years. When will the Secretary of State admit that his Department has very serious problems with implementation?
I would have thought that the hon. Lady, who sits on the Work and Pensions Committee, would be attracted to the idea of trying to land the programme safely and securely. On the one hand she says that she agrees with it, but on the other hand she attacks it for not being fast enough. My view is that it should be expanded and delivered on a safe scale. Of course, the majority of cases will have been simpler ones because we have started with singles, but over the next few months we will see more complicated cases as we roll out to families. The north-west will be fully family when we start rolling out nationally. I am waiting for the hon. Lady to say one day, perhaps in a few years’ time, “You know, they did a jolly good job, because this has benefitted everybody, particularly those on low income.”
Given the huge importance of universal credit and the scale of the programme, has my right hon. Friend had any confirmation from the Labour party as to whether it actually supports universal credit, as opposed to vaguely supporting it in principle?
The answer is that I have not, but my hon. Friend probably reached that conclusion after the earlier statement made by the hon. Member for Leeds West, which was really miserable. That is Labour’s position: its Members hate the idea that we are doing this securely and safely. They say that they support it in principle, but attack everything to do with it and never miss a chance to tell everybody how terrible it is when, in actual fact, if they visited and talked to claimants rather than just dash out of the office, they would find that those who are on universal credit think it is the best thing that has happened and it is helping them enormously.
The Secretary of State has said that 40,000 people have made a claim and 17,850 are in payment, which is less than 1% of the total number affected. In my area, which is a pilot area, local charities that operate food banks say that delays in processing are a significant reason for single people applying for their help. How will the Secretary of State ensure an improvement in processing time if he cannot even deal with 1% at the moment?
Actually, the number of delays in processing has fallen since this Government came to office. There are now fewer cases of delayed payments. The universal credit process will ensure that even that is improved on, as the automatic payments work quite quickly. All of the centres already provide advice on debt management and any particular personal problems people may have. There are debt advisers available and we are also ready to provide advanced payments if people have such problems. That is all part of the services delivered locally through universal credit. If the hon. Lady wants to raise a particular problem, I would be very happy to deal with it, as would the jobcentre. Jobcentres are able to pay money early to people, and if the hon. Lady has a problem case they will certainly be able to help her.
It was only on Saturday that a constituent of mine—a mother of four, including a disabled child—described to me her current restriction on taking a little paid work. She told me that universal credit would solve that. May I urge my right hon. Friend to proceed as quickly and as safely as possible; to let me and the House know how many households in the country and my constituency will benefit; and to do a good job for my constituents?
I accept those blandishments from my hon. Friend. There are two very important issues to remember. Universal credit is not just about the IT system; more importantly, it is about the relationship between the claimant and the adviser. When someone claims a benefit under jobseeker’s allowance, after they take a job—a part-time job or whatever—they have to sign off, which means that they do not have any contact with the jobcentre until they fall out of that job and go back again. Under universal credit, they will not sign off. They will be able to afford to take a job with fewer hours, build up their hours, go back to see their adviser and take another job. In other words, the adviser will stay with them until they come off the benefits system. It is that dynamic that is changing the lives of so many claimants and I intend to extend that to all of them,
We all want to see work paying properly. The Secretary of State will be aware that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said that the taper is far too steep and that some families will lose significantly by going into work. In other words, they will get only a couple of pounds more working a full week than they would get if they were entirely on benefits. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that problem with universal credit so that that does not happen and that work will always pay?
That is a really important question and I thank the hon. Lady for being positive. Two things should be understood about universal credit. First, in-work allowances, which are rather like tax allowances, allow different groups of people—such as those with disabilities and single parents—to earn a certain amount of money before the taper comes in. That gives them a real step up, which is why the bottom 40% with regard to income will benefit to a greater degree than anybody else.
Secondly, I am fully prepared to accept that there is a debate about the taper, but when any future Government budgets they will be able to say, “We want to lower the taper because we want people to be able to up their hours quicker.” Alternatively, if there is full employment, they may say that the taper is not so relevant. That is a debate for Governments. We have instituted a very simple process whereby Back Benchers and others can say whether they want a higher or a lower taper. We have set it at what we think we can afford, and that still makes it better for those claimants going into work. There will always be a debate, so the hon. Lady will be able to argue whether the taper should be raised or lowered.
The Secretary of State must have been relieved to hear the Opposition reiterate their support for universal credit, even though they are concerned that it is being rolled out too slowly. Has he had a chance to review their four-point plan, which I presume is designed to address the issue? The first point is to stop the roll-out and lay-off about 1,000 people while Labour reviews the programme, and the second and third points are uncosted, significant scope increases, introduced at a late stage in the programme, which will almost certainly mean much higher costs.
I think my hon. Friend has a point. The Opposition think that the programme is rolling out too slowly, so they want to roll it out even slower or stop it and not roll it out at all. They are caught in a classic Opposition trap—we have all been there; I spent some time in opposition—which is that they know that what the Government are doing is right, but they do not want to say so because that would make it look like they had nothing to say. Therefore, they are talking about little bits and pieces and nit picking, instead of saying that it is a good programme. When I was in opposition, if something was really good I used to say, “Let’s get behind it and support it, and we can deal with the detail later.”
Actually, we are working very hard to bring down fraud and error. Of course, universal credit will bring down fraud and error. That is one of the driving reasons that it is important to implement universal credit, which is why we are delivering it safely and securely. We all want fraud and error to come down. Of course, we always hear about the mix-up between error and fraud. There is a tendency to think that everyone is defrauding the system, but that is not the case; sometimes, official errors get into the system. Universal credit gets rid of that by simplifying the process, which should make it better. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we have more to do on fraud and error. We need to keep bearing down on it, which is what any Government would want to do, and universal credit will help enormously.
The working-age welfare budget increased by 40% in real terms between 1996 and 2009, while long-term unemployment doubled. In 2009, a quarter of the unemployed had been on in-work benefits for nine of the previous 10 years. That was the legacy of the previous Government. What does the Secretary of State think the legacy of his Government’s careful roll-out of the very well organised and researched universal credit will be once his period in office ends a long time in the future?
That is exactly the point. On the first part of my hon. Friend’s question, the Opposition are in a kind of amnesia: they seem to forget that they crashed the economy in the biggest disaster it has ever had, with a fall of some 7% in GDP, and that many people lost their jobs. We have managed to get more people back to work and now have more people in work than ever before, with unemployment falling dramatically, youth unemployment falling and even more people with disabilities now going back to work. As it is rolled out, universal credit will deliver even more to those people—a better income, better support and a much simpler process that they can understand, rather than the chaotic system of tax credits that we have at the moment.
Universal credit is a life-changing and positive policy. May I urge my right hon. Friend to take his time and make sure that we get this right? The impact of getting it wrong, as with tax credits, would be a complete disaster for many of the families whom I represent, and I hope he will not want to go down the path trodden by the Labour party.
My hon. Friend is right. I set out to change the roll-out plan because I felt that we would just replicate all the problems of previous roll-outs, in which people tried to rush against an artificial deadline and ended up with a big crisis because they had not thought things through properly. The process of testing, learning and implementing is the way that I believe future programmes should be rolled out. It may not be delivered in the fastest way, which is what people want, but it is about securing people’s lives and, to my mind, that is more important than meeting artificial deadlines.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement. My constituency has been included in the roll-out of universal credit so far, and I visited the jobcentre to see the progress that has been made. I met a team there, as well as employers and, most importantly, jobseekers, and the feedback was universally positive. They said, “Universal credit is simply making work pay.” That is why I welcome the roll-out, but may I specifically ask how universal credit will support child care?
I have been to many such jobcentres. I was in Hammersmith last week, when I talked to a number of people who have claimed the benefit. They were very clear about the difference that being able to stay with an adviser in the jobcentre has made to their lives. All of them said that it had allowed them to develop, get on and get a better job as a result.
On the second part of my hon. Friend’s question, we have announced the child care package today. Basically, people will get child care support at 85% of the costs. The reality is that that will be for every hour that they are in work. Unlike with tax credits at the moment, whether they are doing five or 10 hours or 20 or 25 hours, they will get help with child care. That will be a huge help for those with caring responsibilities, particularly lone parents who have to get back to work as well as look after their household.
It is rare to have a Secretary of State who is so passionate about a subject, has so much ability and has so much determination to see something through; in fact, he stood up to the Prime Minister to keep himself in his Department. He has two very able Ministers to support him, the Minister for Employment and the Minister for Pensions—I hope that that does not embarrass the Liberal Democrat on the Front Bench—and there are two worthwhile Opposition shadows, the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) and the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms).
It must be a matter of congratulation for the Secretary of State that universal credit is working. The Opposition want it in as quickly as possible so that they can congratulate him, but I think that he is right to keep rolling it out. Is that not the way to handle future Government programmes?
My hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not repeat to the Prime Minister the first part of his question. Certainly, the Prime Minister and I are in complete agreement on all these measures, and I am of course implementing only what he wishes to see. I want that point on the record, if possible. Yes, the key thing is that we are trying to deliver universal credit safely and securely. I am pleased that my hon. Friend, from his position, is so supportive.
Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Major Projects Authority must have been attracted by the potential for universal credit to cut administrative costs and reduce benefit fraud or they would not have signed off the programme. Surely one major feature of universal credit is that it makes work pay by giving people extra incentives to keep more of their income as they move into the world of work. What evidence can the Secretary of State point to of jobseekers who are already recipients of universal credit changing their job-search behaviour?
Interestingly, my hon. Friend is right. The whole point is that there is a static effect, which we know will save money even without any dynamic effect. In other words, offsetting the savings we make from changing tax credits and so on against expenditure puts us in a net positive position.
We are already beginning to run trials on the dynamic effect. So far, people are going into work quicker, and they tend to stay in work longer. They are doing many more job searches than before, because it is easier to do them. That proves my point that most unemployed people want work desperately. They want to be helped to get work, and if we make the system easier, simpler and more accessible, they will do a lot themselves. What is essentially happening is that they have cottoned on to the usability of universal credit, and it is gratifying to see the way in which they are getting back to work quicker.