The 2020-21 universal credit increase was included in a package of welfare measures worth around £9.3 billion this year to help people with the financial consequences of what has happened with the covid-19 pandemic. I continue to work with the Treasury on the best ways to support those receiving benefits. I share the view of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor that we must act in a way that recognises social justice, and that is the motivation of those on the Government Benches.
That policy is still under review. Clearly, this is a matter of discussion, because the regulations do come to an end. It is important to recognise that we have different measures happening around different parts of the country. We do need to try to take a national approach to the overall policy, but as ever, we trust and empower our work coaches to make the best decisions for the claimants they are helping, usually to help them get back into work.
The Select Committee’s report published today calls for new starter payments to claimants of universal credit to help tide them over the very difficult five-week wait for their first regular benefit payment, and for the £20 a week increase, which the Secretary of State has referred to, to be made permanent. How can it possibly be justified for people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance to receive £20 a week less than people in identical circumstances who happen to be claiming universal credit?
On what happened with legacy benefits and universal credit, I think the rationale was set out clearly at the time; in particular, it was also about having a rate that was quite similar to statutory sick pay. We will look carefully at the report that the right hon. Gentleman and his Committee have issued to us today, but I remind him that of course people do not need to wait five weeks for a universal credit payment; they can get a payment within a matter of days, and that payment is then spread over the entire year.