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Departmental Organisation

Volume 662: debated on Monday 1 July 2019

2. Whether she has made an assessment of the potential merits of splitting her Department into two separate Departments. (911640)

There has been no such assessment. As one Department, we have rolled out universal credit, providing a holistic benefits system to ensure that everyone is given the support they need. As one Department, we have seen record levels of employment and the lowest unemployment rate since the 1970s.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. However, she will be aware that there is a significant difference between the benefits of universal credit, disability benefits and pensions. She will also be aware that certain newspapers are prone, when talking about the allegedly outrageous amounts of money that people on unemployment or disability benefits get, to look only at the Department’s overall spend. Of course, as she will be aware, 90% of that spend is on pensions. Would it not be simpler, easier and more straightforward simply to split DWP into two Departments, so that both can focus on what they should be focusing on?

Although I recognise the good work that the hon. Gentleman has done in many of these areas, I respectfully disagree. I think that it is right that those elements are held together in one Department. If we look at the results, we are seeing record levels of pensioner poverty—[Interruption.]

I say quickly to the hon. Lady on the Opposition Front Bench that we are seeing the lowest levels of pensioner poverty, as well as the highest levels of employment.

I very much welcome the recent decision to move the Office for Disability Issues into the Cabinet Office, creating a super-hub of all equalities work right across Government. Will the new hub be leading the reform to statutory sick pay so that it is better enforced, more flexible and covers the lowest-paid workers, and when will the consultation on this vital reform take place?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and may I take this opportunity to pay homage to the extraordinary work that she did to ensure that took place? The point of having an equalities hub in the Cabinet Office is to ensure that we have strong enforcement to deliver on the disabilities changes across Government. With her help, following the work she put in, we are able to do that.

And my tie has whales on it, Mr Speaker—Japan comes to mind. The fact of the matter is that the Secretary of State knows that she has some really good people working in her Department—certainly the people working in my patch are very good—but the trouble is that they are not well managed or well led. Splitting is not the answer; the answer is to get in some managers who can tackle things such as the awful situation for people on universal credit who do not have a bank account, because she has still not tackled that.

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are working with Lloyds, for instance, to ensure that basic bank accounts are more available. May I also take this opportunity to join him in praising the work of the staff at the jobcentre in Huddersfield to help people in his constituency?