Universal credit is rolling out as planned: on track and on time. I can announce today that it will be in every jobcentre by April next year. Estimates of the total cost of implementation have fallen from £2.4 billion to £1.7 billion, with £0.6 billion having been spent to date. Over a quarter of a million people have now made claims to universal credit.
I recently visited my local jobcentre in Sittingbourne. Job coaches told me how well universal credit is working, giving claimants more flexibility to work and coaches more time to support them. Does the Secretary of State agree that universal credit is helping people into work and making work pay? Will he press on with the roll-out so more people can benefit?
Even on the figures we have published in the past 24 hours, it is a reality that people on universal credit are much more likely to get into work, work longer and earn more money—that is the key bit. Rolling out universal credit has a massive effect on the likelihood of people entering into decent work. I also remind my hon. Friend—the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) obviously did not want to listen to this fact—that under universal credit the childcare package is for every hour they work all the way up until the moment they leave the benefits system.
The cost of universal credit implementation has fallen: it was originally forecast to cost £2.4 billion but is now due to cost £1.7 billion. To give Labour Members a concept of what value for money looks like—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman has no idea about value for money because he has been on the Labour Benches for too long.
I welcome the fact that universal credit reached my constituency about five weeks ago, but for the benefit of constituents concerned about what will happen when they move from tax credits to universal credit, will the Secretary of State confirm when that move will now take place?
It does not suit the Opposition to know it, but all those who transfer from tax credits, through the legacy system, into universal credit will be transitionally protected. That is critical. They do not want to know that, because, as I said, they are the party who failed to transitionally protect anybody when they abolished the 10p tax rate.
We welcome the apparent tax credits U-turn, but it appears that the cuts to the work allowance, which will still go ahead under universal credit, will hit families just as hard. Will the Secretary of State assure us that the tax credits U-turn will also apply to the corresponding elements of universal credit, or will he confirm our suspicions that this so-called U-turn is merely a delaying tactic?
The universal credit position is exactly as set out at the time of the summer Budget, which means, as we understand it and calculate it, and as figures released in the last 24 hours show categorically, there will be a huge improvement in the numbers of people going back to work, working full time and earning more money. I absolutely believe that, in the next few years, the hon. Gentleman will be one of the first to say, “Thank God we introduced universal credit.”