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Universal Credit

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 23 March 2017

2. Whether she has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the potential effect on levels of income of limiting entitlement for the child element in universal credit to two children; and if she will make a statement. (909426)

The Welfare Reform and Work Act was scrutinised by both Houses and gained Royal Assent in March 2016. An impact assessment of the policy was published during the passage of the legislation. The policy strikes the right balance between protecting vulnerable people and encouraging families who receive benefits to make the same financial decisions as those who support themselves solely through work.

The respected Women’s Budget Group calculates that these cuts will disproportionately affect Asian families, costing them £16,000 by the next general election compared with a cost of £13,000 for larger white families. Should not the Government have carried out a comprehensive equality assessment on this and other Budget measures, and taken action to end this disproportionate effect?

As the right hon. Lady will have heard me say, the policy was available for scrutiny during the passage of the Bill. Since 2010, we have worked hard to make sure that families who are reliant on benefits make the same decisions as families in work. Our reforms are about encouraging more people into work.

For the very reason that my hon. Friend has just given—those on welfare benefits should have to make the same choice as those in work—will she reassure me that there will be no U-turn on this policy?

As I have said, the reforms are aimed at helping working parents and they are removing barriers to work for ordinary men and women across the country. Ordinary working families rely on the Government to provide economic stability and we are starting from a position of strength. I assure my hon. Friend that we have looked at the regulations carefully, and we have taken this decision to restore fairness in the benefits systems.

May I, too, associate myself with the comments made by right hon. and hon. Members from across the House?

The Prime Minister wants to transform the way in which we think about domestic violence, and I am sure that the Minister supports her in those efforts, but does the Minister accept that that is completely undermined by introducing the rape clause without parliamentary scrutiny? Will she encourage her colleagues to scrap this pernicious tax?

The hon. Lady will recall that there was a debate on this subject in Westminster Hall in October. I am aware that there have been repeated requests for further scrutiny and debate on this subject, and the usual channels have considered them.

I associate myself with the Minister’s comments about PC Keith Palmer. We will always owe a debt of gratitude to him and our hearts bleed for his family.

From 6 April, new mothers will not be able to claim tax credit or universal credit for their third child. What communications has the Minister had with women who are pregnant now to tell them that they face an unexpected drop in income because of this Government’s choices?

Of course, the hon. Lady will know that no existing family will be a cost loser as a result of this policy. We consulted widely on the exceptions and how to implement them, and we have worked hard with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to make sure that information is available to all staff who have to communicate the policy.