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Benefit Sanctions

Volume 599: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2015

5. What assessment he has made of the effect of benefit sanctions in areas of Wales which have high numbers of economically inactive people and low numbers of available jobs relative to the rest of the country. (901175)

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his new role as leader of his party. Benefit sanctions are a necessary part of a welfare system that encourages people to take up support, while being sustainable and fair. Our welfare reforms have helped thousands of people from across Wales move from inactivity into work.

I thank the Secretary of State for his kind words. Some areas of Wales have high unemployment and low economic activity, and getting a job or extra hours is not easy, or even impossible. What has he done personally, as our Secretary of State, to ensure that our people are not subject to arbitrary and unfair benefit sanctions?

I repeat that we need benefit sanctions if we are to reform the welfare system in a way that will encourage hard work and responsible decisions, but they are used as a matter of last resort. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about rurality as I am from a rural area myself, but I remind him that unemployment has fallen significantly in his constituency over the past five years, and we thoroughly expect that to continue.

Following yesterday’s decision, Welsh families will lose between £1,000 and £2,500 in tax credits every year. Is the Secretary of State confident that his constituents, and mine, are aware of that change, so that they can plan cuts to food, fuel, clothing, footwear and—dare I say it?—even travelling to work?

The hon. Gentleman paints a very negative picture. His constituency, like a great many in Wales, has suffered too long from the curse of low pay, so I thought he would welcome the fact that one of the things we are doing to transform the Welsh economy is introduce a national living wage, which will benefit thousands of families in his constituency and mine

Would the Secretary of State allow made-up quotes to be included in leaflets from the Wales Office? If not, does he think it is acceptable that the Department for Work and Pensions did just that when it made up quotes about benefits sanctions?

The information the hon. Lady refers to was used for illustrative purposes only. I think it is actually helpful to provide information based around real-life case studies so that people can understand how changes we make affect families in different circumstances.