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End of Universal Credit Uplift

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2021

12. What recent discussions his Department has had with the (a) Department for Work and Pensions and (b) Welsh Government on the impact of the end of the £20 uplift to universal credit on recipients of that benefit. (903246)

16. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the impact on the Exchequer of ending the £20 uplift to universal credit. (903250)

18. What discussions he plans to have with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the impact on the Exchequer of ending the £20 uplift to universal credit. (903252)

21. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the impact on the Exchequer of ending the £20 uplift to universal credit. (903255)

The Government have always been clear that the £20 increase to universal credit was a temporary measure, much like furlough and our other interventions to support this country through the acute phases of this crisis, but we are not done supporting those who need our help. This Government will always be on their side, and that is why we have created our plan for jobs. On the Government side of the House, we know that the best way to help people is to give them the skills and the opportunities they need to find high-quality work, and that is what the plan for jobs is delivering.

Ending the uplift will mean £286 million less for families in Wales, and risks plunging 275,000 families into poverty. Figures from the Bevan Foundation suggest that families in Ceredigion stand to lose £5.7 million in support. What assessment has the Chancellor made of the economic impact of ending the £20 a week uplift for communities in Wales?

The hon. Gentleman talks about those in poverty. The statistics most recently published show that 200,000 fewer people are living in absolute poverty in the United Kingdom than when this Government came into office. With regard to the economic impacts, I think all colleagues in the House can see the strength in our labour market: the need for businesses to find people and the fact that this Government are giving them the skills they need to get those jobs. That is the right strategy to help people and that is the economic strategy this Government are pursuing.

While the Chancellor was pondering the colour of the tiles for his new swimming pool and the site of his new tennis court for his country mansion this summer, back in the real world 20% of my constituency of Liverpool West Derby are facing a £20 a week cut to universal credit and sleepless nights about how they will survive. Can the Chancellor tell me what assessment the Government have made of the impact of the cut, and how many of the 12,530 people in Liverpool West Derby they estimate will be forced into poverty?

I do not accept that people will be forced into poverty, because we know, and all the evidence and history tells us, that the best way to take people out of poverty is to find them high quality work. We are creating jobs at a rapid rate, with eight months of continuous growth in employment supported by this Government: traineeships, sector-based work academies, apprenticeships, kickstart. You name it, we are delivering it to help those people in Liverpool to get the skills and the jobs they need to help support their families.

Forty per cent. of the people who claim universal credit are already in work. Does the Chancellor understand that they will be very hard hit by this cut, which is the biggest overnight benefit cut in our history?

Of course there are people already in work who are on universal credit, but our plan for jobs helps them too. We increased the national living wage this year by an inflation-busting amount—£350 a year to help those families. We talked earlier about the lifetime skills guarantee, about apprenticeships, about skills boot camps. Those are all ways the Government are supporting people; each one of those initiatives, by the way, is worth thousands of pounds of support. Those people will benefit from those increased skills and benefit from guaranteed new job interviews or higher wages at the end of it. That is the right strategy to help those people in work.

This week, the charity Action for Children highlighted that a street cleaner with two children in private rented accommodation is already on average £729 worse off as a result of Conservative cuts since 2010, but that will soar to over £1,700 as a result of the Chancellor’s planned cut to universal credit. So I ask the Chancellor: how exactly are families meant to manage?

Again, what we know is that children growing up in workless households are five times more likely to be in poverty than those whose parents work. That is why we are supporting their parents to get into work and why almost 800,000 fewer children are living in workless households than when this Government first came into office. That is the right way to support those families. Of course, there are other bits of our welfare system that we have maintained the generosity of, but when it comes to universal credit or employment, we on this side of the House we will support their parents into work and, crucially, with their childcare costs. Mr Speaker, we forget that 85% of childcare costs for people on universal credit are covered to support parents into work, which we know will make a difference to those children.