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Universal Credit

Volume 715: debated on Wednesday 25 May 2022

11. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on trends in the level of people in (a) Rhondda constituency and (b) Wales in receipt of universal credit. (900145)

My colleagues and I are aware that the number of people on universal credit has fallen both in Rhondda and across Wales over the past year. We will continue delivering for residents through schemes such as in-work progression, kickstart and our plan for jobs.

The thing is, 6,320 households in the Rhondda are in receipt of universal credit, and when the Government cut universal credit by £20 a week last year, that took £6.5 million out of the Rhondda economy. That is one reason why the food bank in Tylorstown—ironically, it is in the old Conservative club—now has to provide food to the tune of 3 tonnes a month, although families are not able to contribute so much. When will the Secretary of State restore the extra £20 a week in universal credit?

The Chancellor will make interventions clear in due course. The context to the hon. Gentleman’s perfectly reasonable question is that there has been a 7% increase in the number of people in work in Rhondda and the number of people who are unemployed in Wales is down 23,000 in the past year—he did not mention that. I very much hope that the increases in the national living wage and the national minimum wage will help to offset some of the issues he has raised.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)—who is my occasional friend, when he is not slagging me off on Twitter—is right to talk about the Rhondda, because there are areas of real poverty, as there are in parts in Lichfield. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree that there are many ways to help people, some of which he has named, that there is an urgent need to address food and fuel inflation, and that that can be done in other ways, which the Treasury may well talk about, and not just by raising universal credit?

On that particular point, I agree with my hon. Friend—I would probably describe him as my permanent friend. It is perfectly right that we wait and see what the Chancellor says. We have tried to set out short, medium and long-term measures that will help with the current challenge and we will of course hear more in due course.