Debates between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood

There have been 9 exchanges between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood

1 Mon 18th March 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
3 interactions (181 words)
2 Mon 11th February 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Work and Pensions
5 interactions (167 words)
3 Mon 14th January 2019 Universal Credit
Department for Work and Pensions
4 interactions (1,024 words)
4 Tue 8th January 2019 Universal Credit: Managed Migration
Department for Work and Pensions
4 interactions (1,022 words)
5 Tue 16th October 2018 Universal Credit
Department for Work and Pensions
3 interactions (472 words)
6 Wed 6th June 2018 Employment Rates
Department for Work and Pensions
6 interactions (4,501 words)
7 Tue 20th March 2018 Scottish Welfare Powers
Department for Work and Pensions
4 interactions (859 words)
8 Wed 14th March 2018 Women and Work
Department for Work and Pensions
2 interactions (287 words)
9 Tue 16th January 2018 Food Poverty: Merseyside
Department for Work and Pensions
10 interactions (1,572 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

My right hon. Friend is a huge champion for his constituents. He is extremely well regarded in the jobcentre, interacting with constituents and indeed with those working there. The Secretary of State has already referred to the fact that, from 1 April, we will be increasing work allowances by £1,000.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, midnight

Four single mothers won a legal challenge against the Department for Work and Pensions in January because their universal credit payments did not take into account the way in which their incomes changed from month to month, yet the Government decided to apply for permission to appeal. This was turned down, with the judge saying that the way in which the Secretary of State had interpreted and applied the legislation

“was not only wrong as a matter of language, it produces absurd results”.

Why did the Government choose to spend public money seeking to appeal the original decision, and what are they going to do now to address this grotesque injustice?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 2:51 p.m.

As the hon. Lady will know, we are considering this case, so it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Monday 11th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 2:43 p.m.

Easements are, of course, available. I am happy to sit down and discuss the specifics of this case with the hon. Lady to see what may be possible.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 2:43 p.m.

On the evening of 14 January, the Government announced that, from this May, mixed-aged couples on a low income will no longer be able to claim pension credit when the older partner reaches state pension age and will have to claim universal credit instead. Couples affected could lose out by up to £7,000 a year, and the Conservative party manifesto pledged to safeguard pensioner benefits. Why have the Government broken that pledge?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 2:44 p.m.

Of course, we are safeguarding pensioner benefits overall.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
11 Feb 2019, 2:44 p.m.

No, you’re not.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

If the hon. Lady would kindly listen, what I am saying is that the long-agreed change for mixed-age couples was voted on and agreed by Parliament in 2012. We should also be clear that mixed-age couples already claiming pension-age, income-related benefits at the point of change will not be affected, so long as they remain entitled.

Universal Credit

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Monday 14th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
14 Jan 2019, 3:45 p.m.

(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister to make a statement on universal credit.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Parliament Live - Hansard
14 Jan 2019, 3:46 p.m.

As I outlined in the written statement tabled last Friday in the House, we have decided to replace the regulations relating to managed migration previously laid before the House with two new sets of regulations.

These regulations will allow a series of measures relating to universal credit to be put in place. The Government will seek powers in an affirmative set of regulations for a pilot of managed migration so that the Department cannot issue any more migration notices once 10,000 people have been awarded through the process. Those regulations will also deliver on our commitment to provide transitional protection for those managed migrated to universal credit. Separate regulations will put in place a severe disability premium gateway, allowing recipients of this benefit to continue to claim existing benefits until they are managed migrated on to universal credit.

In addition, my statement reported that we were bringing forward the necessary legislation to remove the planned extension of the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children in universal credit. This overall policy ensures that parents receiving benefits face the same financial decisions about the size of their family as those supporting themselves solely through work. We decided, however, that it would not be right to apply the policy to children born before it came into law on 6 April 2017, so we have cancelled that extension.

The benefits freeze up to April 2020 was voted for by Parliament as part of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. As a general point, any changes relating to benefits uprating will be brought before Parliament in the usual way.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Parliament Live - Hansard

On 6 January, it was reported in The Observer that the Government had decided to ask for powers from Parliament for a pilot of the managed migration of 10,000 people from legacy benefits to universal credit, rather than for a pilot of managed migration as a whole. However, on 7 January at oral questions, and the following day in response to an urgent question, Ministers failed to provide clarification of the Government’s plans. Then on Thursday, the Secretary of State told Sky News that she did not expect the social security freeze to be renewed when it came to an end in April 2020.

On Friday 11 January, the Secretary of State made a wide-ranging speech on social security, setting out her intentions in relation to managed migration, private sector rents, childcare costs and the two-child limit, but she did not make it in this House or give Members the opportunity to ask questions about those really important matters. On the same day, the High Court found in favour of four single mothers who had brought a legal challenge against the Government on the grounds that universal credit failed to take into account their fluctuating incomes after they were paid twice in a month because their paydays fell very near the end of the month.

How do the Government intend to respond to the High Court judgement? Does the Minister think that the two-child limit is fair to the children affected, and will the Government not scrap it altogether? Will they address the key concern with managed migration, which is that nobody’s claim for benefits that they are currently receiving must be ended until they have made a successful new claim for universal credit?

Will the Government make sure that the levels set for payments to people in receipt of severe disability premium who have already transferred to universal credit reflect the financial loss they have suffered? Will they take immediate action to ensure that no one has to wait five weeks to receive their initial payment of universal credit? Why are they not cancelling the benefits freeze now rather than waiting until April 2020, given that the Secretary of State says she believes that the reasons for it being introduced no longer apply? Finally, will the Government call a halt to the roll-out of universal credit?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. Very many people outside the House—many stakeholders —have welcomed the statements made in the House on Friday and what the Secretary of State said in her speech. I am sorry that the hon. Lady did not welcome the positive changes that have been made and are being proposed.

The hon. Lady talked about a number of issues, and I shall go through them. She mentioned the legal judgment on Friday; as she acknowledged, that judgment came out literally a few days ago. As a Department, we will consider it very carefully and then respond. On the two-child policy, we have of course made that change; as she will be aware, the regulations were laid on Friday. She talked about the overall two-child policy, and we do believe that the overall policy is fair. Ultimately, those receiving support in the welfare system should face the same sort of choices as those who support themselves solely through work. It is worth pointing out that if a family who supported themselves solely through work decided to have another child, they would not automatically expect their wages to go up. This is about sustainability.

The hon. Lady mentioned the pilot. We have made it clear that that will start in July 2019, and we are working with a wide range of stakeholders on it. She talked about the severe disability premium: those regulations have been laid. She also mentioned the benefits freeze. May I ask her to reflect on the reason why we had to make various policy choices in the past? It was the awful financial mess left us by the last Labour Government. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but she cannot get away from that point.

I have one final thing to say to the hon. Lady. She talks about changes to the five-week period. I have said this in the House before: if she is so keen on supporting claimants, particularly the vulnerable, as we on the Government Benches are, why did she not vote for the £1.5 billion of support that came in under Budget 2017 and the £4.5 billion of support announced in the 2018 Budget?

Universal Credit: Managed Migration

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Tuesday 8th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Hansard

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if she will make a statement on the Government’s plans for the managed migration of people claiming legacy benefits to universal credit.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 12:52 p.m.

Universal credit is a vital reform that overhauls a legacy system that trapped people out of work; with six different benefits, administered by three different Government Departments, it was utterly confusing for claimants. All new claimants now receive universal credit. In the future, we will move claimants who have not changed circumstances from legacy benefits to universal credit in an approach known as managed migration. It is right that the Government should seek to align provision for all, in order to eventually operate one welfare system. The Department has long planned to initially support 10,000 people through this process in a test phase, before increasing the number of those migrated. The first phase will give us an opportunity to learn how to provide the best support, while keeping Parliament fully informed of our approach. Universal credit is proceeding as planned, with no change to the timetable of completing managed migration by December 2023.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 12:55 p.m.

Over the weekend, it was widely reported in the media that the Government had decided to ask for powers from Parliament for a managed migration pilot to move 10,000 people from legacy benefits to universal credit, rather than the managed migration as a whole of about 3 million people. One headline read:

“Threat of revolt forces rethink of ‘catastrophic’ universal credit”.

The Minister’s response does nothing to clarify the situation.

This is a matter of very real concern. Under so-called managed migration, the Government intend to switch off the vital financial support received by millions of people and leave them to apply for universal credit. There are very real fears that vulnerable people will be put at risk of falling out of the social security system altogether. Over a third of these people are currently claiming employment and support allowance because they are ill and disabled. In some cases, they will have been claiming it for a long time and may find it extremely difficult to make a claim for universal credit. A policy change of this significance, which was indicated in the press, clearly should have been announced in the House but the Government failed to do so. The Secretary of State failed to clarify the situation when she was asked to do so yesterday.

Will the Minister—it is disappointing that the Secretary of State is not in her place—tell the House whether the Government intend to ask Parliament initially for powers to carry out a pilot for the managed migration of 10,000 people or for the process as a whole, which would affect nearly 3 million people? Will the Government pledge, as they did before Christmas, to debate the regulations, in whatever form they take, on the Floor of the House? If the Government seek powers for a pilot in the first instance, will the Government address the fundamental concern of numerous voluntary organisations that nobody’s claim for a legacy benefit will be ended until they have either made a new claim for universal credit or have said that they do not wish to do so?

The result of putting back the timetable for managed migration, as the Government already did in the Budget, will mean that many more people will transfer to universal credit through natural migration. Can the Minister tell us how many people the Government estimate will move to universal credit through natural migration, and what savings that will make for the Treasury?

The Government announced in June that those in receipt of severe disability premium would not have to transfer to universal credit without transitional protection. Will the Government compensate those who have already done so and missed out as a result? What action will the Government take to ensure that those affected are fully compensated? The Government have chosen to shift the burden of what should be the Government’s responsibility to ensure continuity of social security on to claimants, forcing them to apply for universal credit. Will the Minister explain precisely what the Government are going to do and will they stop the roll-out of universal credit?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jan 2019, 12:57 p.m.

May I just clarify, if it was not clear yesterday when we had oral questions, that the Government had previously committed to hold a debate on the affirmative regulations in relation to the managed migration regulations? That will happen in due course, and we will debate them as and when parliamentary time allows. We will of course, as we have set out previously, meet our commitment to severe disability premium recipients. We will also ensure that the start date for the July 2019 test phase involving 10,000 people is voted on.

The hon. Lady raised a number of issues. She raised the issue of vulnerable people. I hope she will have seen our response to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s recommendations, in which we set out very clearly—I am sure we will have a chance to talk about them—how we will be looking to move people across, working with stakeholders to ensure protections are in place for the vulnerable.

The hon. Lady talked about voluntary organisations. We will be working with voluntary organisations. We have already had meetings with 70 stakeholders and we have plans for further discussions. We want to design the process together with them. The timetable is as set out. We will have a pilot phase starting in July 2019. In 2020, we will then move on to volume migration.

I want to end on one point, which is that every time the hon. Lady gets up she talks about stopping the roll-out of universal credit. To be clear, we have now rolled it out across the country. If she wants to support people, she should vote with us when we bring forward support for the most vulnerable. She voted against the £1.5 billion of support. She also voted against the £4.5 billion. When the regulations are debated, she should support them and not oppose them. Let me clarify once more that we will hold a debate on affirmative regulations in relation to the managed migration regulations.

Universal Credit

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Tuesday 16th October 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Work and Pensions
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 12:47 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; under the legacy benefits system, some people did face effective tax rates of 90% and that system also disincentivised people from work. As I have said, those on legacy benefits that we manage migrate across will of course receive transitional protection.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Hansard

Universal credit is causing severe hardship for many people claiming it, and over the past two weeks conflicting statements from the Government have caused real confusion over the impact it will have on people who are required to move across to claim it in the next phase. First, we were told that austerity is over and then that families on low income are in danger of losing up to £200 a month as a result of transferring to UC. Next, the Prime Minister said that nobody would be worse off, but the Secretary of State contradicted her the following day by confirming that in fact some families would be worse off. So will the Government now publish their impact assessments of that next phase? How many households currently claiming legacy benefits will be worse off between now and 2023 as a result of making a claim for UC?

Yesterday, the Secretary of State met criticism of UC with accusations of scaremongering. So can the Minister tell us: are Citizens Advice, the Child Poverty Action Group, the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, the Residential Landlords Association, the National Housing Federation, the Resolution Foundation, the National Audit Office, two former Prime Ministers and more than 80 organisations representing disabled people scaremongering? From these Benches, we again call on the Government to stop the roll-out of UC now.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 Oct 2018, 12:50 p.m.

It is interesting that the hon. Lady talks about confusion. Let me be absolutely clear: there is no confusion on the Government Benches; the confusion is on the Opposition Benches. The shadow Chancellor talks about abolishing universal credit and others talk about reforming it. There is no clarity at all from the Opposition. They oppose everything but they have the solution to nothing.

When it comes to hardship, as I just said we introduced an extra £1.5 billion, but the hon. Lady did not vote for or support that. When it comes to protecting people, I have already made it clear that we will have transitional protection and that there will be protection for the half a million people on severe disability premium. I do not know what the hon. Lady wants, but if she wants to go back to the legacy benefit system, she should know that 700,000 people in this country are not getting the benefits that they require. That is £2.4 billion of underpayment and that will change under universal credit. Finally, the hon. Lady talks about Citizens Advice; I hope that she will welcome the partnership we recently announced with Citizens Advice to help the very vulnerable.

Employment Rates

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Wednesday 6th June 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:12 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) on yet again securing this debate, and on his work on youth employment as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on youth employment. We have heard some very interesting contributions today, including from the hon. Gentleman himself, and I really look forward in particular to the group’s work on care leavers and prison leavers, who are a matter of concern; I am sure he shares that concern.

We heard a good contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), who quite rightly raised the issues of in-work poverty, insecure contracts and food bank use, all of which have risen, as well as discussing how zero-hours contracts devalue the rights of employees. He also spoke about the importance of looking at a broad range of measures and at the lived experience of work; the testimony he received from his constituency, via his Facebook page, was very interesting.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) made a useful intervention about the question of the availability of hours for people in insecure work, and said that rather than looking at a “jobs miracle” we are looking at a “jobs mirage,” which I thought was a pertinent way of describing the situation.

I welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) spoke about the particular issues that rural communities face. He also called for the quality and quantity of work that is available to be a focus for the Government across the board.

The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) said that he did not agree with banning zero-hours contracts. I have to disagree with him on that, and I remind him that the number of people on zero-hours contracts is heading towards a million, so it really is a significant issue and I will touch on it later in my speech.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) quite rightly called for fair pay—enough for people to live on—and pointed out that the national living wage is not, of course, an actual living wage.

Increases in employment are welcome, but we also need to look beyond the statistics, as many Members have said, to see what the world of work is really like. Average real pay has still not returned to the level it was at before the financial crisis, and although inflation has started to fall, it has nevertheless outstripped wages for almost all of the period since 2010. Public sector workers have been particularly badly hit; they saw their pay frozen for two years, in 2011 and 2012, and since then any increase has been capped at 1% a year, regardless of the rate of inflation.

Then, of course, there is a generation of people who were in their twenties at the time of the financial crisis, so they have spent almost all of their adult life in this period of austerity. They are now in their thirties—an age when many of them will have young children—yet median pay for people in that group is nearly 9% below the level that it was at in April 2008.

The Resolution Foundation predicts that this decade is likely to be the weakest decade for real pay growth in almost two centuries. Some 20% of Britain’s 33 million workers earn £15,000 a year or less, and a recent report by the Centre for Social Justice forecast that the pay of those workers in particular would be squeezed over the next decade, as a result of trends such as the growth of the gig economy, automation and global competition. So can the Minister tell us what action the Government will take to improve the prospects of low-paid workers and what investment they will make in skills?

Around 8 million people are living in poverty in the UK, even though at least one person in such households is in work, and of course many people move in and out of low-paid work. Universal credit was originally aimed at smoothing the transition into work and at making work pay, but the cuts to work allowances announced in the summer Budget of 2015 severely damaged the work incentives that universal credit offers.

Reports by independent organisations such as the Resolution Foundation and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have made it clear that the increase in the national living wage and personal allowance do not compensate for the cuts to social security since 2010 for people on low income, with disabled people and single parents being hit especially hard.

According to a TUC report, the public sector pay cap, coupled with cuts to in-work support, means that the number of children in working families growing up in poverty will be 3.1 million this year, which is 1 million higher than in 2010. Will the Government listen to the call from the TUC and Labour to reverse the cuts to work allowances in universal credit and abolish the pay cap across the public sector, which Labour has committed to doing?

There are deep inequalities in the labour market, on the basis of where people live, ethnic background, gender, age and disability. The Government have repeatedly failed to address those inequalities, despite the Prime Minister’s fine words outside No. 10 Downing Street on coming to power. More than eight out of 10 companies employing more than 250 staff—such companies were required to report on their gender pay gap in April—paid men more than women and three out of 10 of them had a gender pay gap higher than the national median of 18%—in some cases it was over 50%. So now we know about those companies, but they will not face any action as a result, except perhaps reputational damage. Labour would introduce fines for companies that have a high gender pay gap that they have failed to reduce. Are the Government going to act on the gender pay audit, and if not, why not?

According to the Prime Minister’s race disparity audit, around one in 10 adults from a black, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or mixed background are unemployed, compared with one in 25 white British people. There are also significant differences in the kind of work that people do. For example, more than two in five people from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background work in low-skilled occupations. Audits are important to tell us what the facts are, but we need action to address the issues they raise. How are the Government going to do that?

I turn to the situation for disabled people. Back in November, the Chancellor disgracefully sought to somehow blame disabled people for the UK’s poor productivity record. That was particularly shocking given the Government’s approach to supporting disabled people into work. The Work and Pensions Committee has highlighted that funding for specialist employment support for disabled people will fall substantially, from around £1 billion under Work Choice and the Work programmes to £554 million over the lifetime of the Work and Health programme.

A study by WPI Economics for the Employment Related Services Association estimates that the number of disabled people receiving specialist employment support will drop from around 300,000—the number it was between 2012 and 2015—to only 160,000 between 2017 and 2020. That would be a cut of around 50%, so I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on that, as it would not only be clearly detrimental to the lives of many disabled people, but would make no economic sense. Research by Scope suggests that a 10% increase in the number of disabled people in work would increase GDP by £45 billion by 2030 and benefit the Exchequer by £12 billion. If the Chancellor really wants to address the UK’s productivity problems, he might like to give those figures some thought.

The majority of employment support for disabled people will be provided through Jobcentre Plus by general work coaches. If the Government are going to take employment support back in-house, will they look again at providing specialist support, rather than adopting a generalist model for work coaches?

With youth employment, the figures are less rosy. One in eight young people aged 16 to 24 are unemployed, which is much higher than the overall unemployment figure. The number of young people who are economically inactive rose over the past year. That is a matter of real concern. Just over 11% of 16 to 24-year-olds, or 808,000 young people, were not in education, employment or training—NEET—in the final quarter of 2017. Only about two fifths of those young people were registered as unemployed. The rest were economically inactive and hidden from the benefits system. The proportion of certain groups that are not in education, employment or training is shockingly high. Some 30% of disabled young people and 40% of care leavers are NEET, as compared with 9% of other young people. The Children’s Society has made a strong case for there to be a specific marker for care leavers in universal credit, as in legacy benefits, so that we can measure their progress. Will the Minister commit to doing that?

Since April 2017, young people aged 18 to 21 claiming universal credit receive employment support through the youth obligation. After six months of what is supposed to be intensive support, they are required to take up an apprenticeship, training or a work placement. However, organisations such as Centrepoint are concerned that young people who face the greatest challenges in finding work—for example, care leavers—might need longer than six months and more personalised support to get to the point where they can do that. The all-party group has also made that point, stressing the importance of young people with greater challenges being given support in the first instance to develop basic skills. Can the Minister tell us what percentage of young people have found work through the youth obligation so far? Will he look at the case for personalised support for young people on universal credit through specialist work coaches?

The European social fund is a vital source of funding for employment support at the local level for disabled people and young people who are NEET, for example. In the present funding round for 2014 to 2020, the UK is receiving around £500 million a year, but ESF funding is important not only for the direct support it provides, but for attracting funding from other sources. The Government have announced that they will create a shared prosperity fund to replace the ESF, but time is running out to have a successor ready in time. They have said that they will publish a consultation some time later in the year, but no timescale has been announced. Can the Minister tell us when the consultation will take place? Can he tell us what he is doing to ensure that there will be no gap in the provision of employment support when ESF funding comes to an end?

Young people are also more likely to be working part time, in temporary employment or on a zero-hours contract than workers who are older. It is little wonder that the chief executive of the Financial Conduct Authority warned last year about levels of debt among young people that are built up in just trying to cover basic bills. Women are especially likely to be in part-time or insecure work. Some 55% of people on a zero-hours contract are women, and 45% are men. Similarly, a high proportion of people from some ethnic minority communities are more likely to be in part-time or insecure work. According to the Government’s race disparity audit, more than one in four Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers were employed in distribution or in hotels and restaurants, and one in five were in transport and communications industries, where low-paid, insecure work is common. Around 900,000 people are on zero-hours contracts.

More than half the zero-hours workers in a TUC survey said that they had shifts cancelled at less than 24 hours’ notice. People with caring responsibilities simply cannot afford to take shifts at such short notice. Having made provision for childcare, to then have a shift cancelled is particularly frustrating and expensive. Three quarters of the people responding to the survey said that they had been offered shifts at less than 24 hours’ notice, and a third said that they had been threatened that they would not be given shifts in future if they turned down work. How are people supposed to manage their finances and their lives when they are on zero-hours contracts—when they do not know how much money will be coming in each week and how much childcare they are likely to need? Will the Government ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, as Labour would?

The hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk spoke of the importance of the work of self-employed people. In evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee in January, the director of universal credit at the Department for Work and Pensions said clearly:

“Self-employment is a cause of in-work poverty.”

We should all be alarmed by that statement. The number of self-employed people has increased. They now make up about 15% of the workforce, or 4.8 million. That figure is for 2017, and compares with 12%, or 3.3 million, in 2001. The design of universal credit means it can fail to protect self-employed people on low income from poverty. Under the minimum income floor, self-employed people claiming universal credit are assumed to be earning the equivalent of 35 hours at the national living wage after a year, even though in many cases their earnings may be much less. That is exactly why they need to claim universal credit.

In February the Office for Budget Responsibility estimated that by 2022-23 more than two thirds of self-employed people claiming universal credit would lose out from the minimum income floor by an average of £3,000 a year. Someone who is self-employed, but on exactly the same annual income as someone who is an employee, can be entitled to less universal credit because it fails to take account of the fluctuating earnings that are a basic characteristic of self-employment.

In conclusion, high rates of employment should be good for those who are employed. They should mean higher wages and more security, but in reality people can face years as agency staff on temporary contracts, and zero-hours workers can have shifts cancelled at less than a day’s notice, with all the insecurity that that brings. It is little wonder that the TUC has reported parents being penalised by employers for asking for flexibility for family reasons, such as for simply wanting to take annual leave when their child is sick. Work should be a route out of poverty, but recent research by the Living Wage Foundation reveals that more than a third of working parents on low incomes have regularly skipped meals because they are short of money, and almost half have fallen behind on household bills. On coming to power, the Prime Minister promised outside Downing Street to be on the side of families who were just about managing, but it is clear that her Government are failing to do that. High employment rates are welcome, but they do not tell the whole truth about most people’s experience of the world of work.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:26 a.m.

It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Roger. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) on securing, for the second time, this important debate on recent trends in employment. He made a fine speech, as did colleagues from all parts of the House. I have time in this debate to respond to a lot of the points that have been raised, and I will aim to do that. I will also come back to some of the points that my hon. Friend raised.

Sir Roger, I think you and I are probably the only Members here who were in the House in 2010, when the Conservative-led Government came into office. One of their first acts was to introduce an emergency Budget. At the time—both during the debate and subsequently—there were many siren voices on the Labour Benches that warned with great conviction that the Government’s policies would lead to a big increase in unemployment. Well, those doom-laden predictions have not come to pass; as Members on both sides have pointed out, we have seen strong jobs growth.

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) is no longer in his place, but, frankly, to talk about this jobs miracle as a mirage is insulting. It is insulting to the more than 3 million people who now have a job as a result of the jobs created since 2010. It is also insulting to the employers—the hard-working companies and organisations that have created those jobs.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:28 a.m.

Will the Minister comment on the 900,000 people who are on zero-hours contracts and cannot manage their lives? They do not know how much money they are going to earn. They do not know how much childcare they need. It is a state of real insecurity, creating anxiety for a lot of people, and it is not good for the economy either.

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:28 a.m.

I will of course come on to discuss precisely those points, because they are important.

The labour market statistics published last month by the independent Office for National Statistics—I point out once again to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) that it is independent—show that employment in the United Kingdom reached a record high in the last quarter of 75.6%. That was the 17th new record employment rate since 2010. Employment is up by more than 3 million since 2010. I place on record my thanks, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole did, to all the businesses and organisations across our constituencies that have created those jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.2%, which is a 40-year low. As my hon. Friend pointed out, there are now more than 800,000 vacancies across our economy.

Those who cannot quite accept that positive trend will say that all those jobs are low paid and temporary, but that is absolutely not true. Some 70% of the increase in employment has been in higher skilled occupations that pay higher salaries. Three quarters of them are full time and permanent.

A point was made about where those jobs are created and whether they are all in London and the south-east. I can confirm that 60% of the growth in private sector employment since 2010 has been outside London and the south-east.

Various colleagues, including the hon. Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), made a point about zero-hours contracts. Such contracts represent less than 3% of all people in employment. The hon. Lady is right to say that that is around 900,000 people, but the number is down on the year. On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually works 25.2 hours a week. Again, of those who stated a preference—to be clear, this is in the ONS’s own labour force survey—only 30% of those on a zero-hours contract stated that they wanted to work more hours. So when the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport talks about only a small number of people valuing such flexibility, I have to say that that is not what we see from the independent figures—a point well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant).

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:31 a.m.

I thank the Minister for giving way again; he is being very generous. Is he aware of the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace among staff on zero-hours contracts? What advice would he give to a young woman on such a contract who is experiencing that? Where can she go for support? How can she tackle it, and how can she remain employed, but in a safe environment?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
6 Jun 2018, 10:31 a.m.

Frankly, any kind of bullying and any such acts are completely unacceptable, whether someone is on a zero-hours contract or a full-time contract. As the hon. Lady knows, there are avenues open to people, but if she has specific cases, she is welcome to come and talk to me about them. It is important that we have flexibility in work patterns, which is what zero-hours contracts allow, but it is also right that the Government have banned exclusive zero-hours contracts.

We have discussed employment outcomes by groups. If we look at some of the groups that have historically been under-represented in the employment market, we have seen a significant improvement in their participation in the workforce. The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) welcomed the record high of 71.2% in the female employment rate, which I of course welcome as well. There are now more than 3.8 million people from ethnic minorities in work—an increase of 1.1 million since 2010. The ethnic minority employment rate currently stands at 65.1 %, which is a record high. However, I completely accept that the employment gap between ethnic minorities and the white population is too high, at 12%, and we are working to address that. If I have time, I will talk about the response to the race disparity audit.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock talked about disabled people. We have seen a welcome rise in the employment of disabled people—600,000 in the past four years—to around 3.5 million people today. He also talked about the Disability Confident scheme. More than 6,000 employers are involved in that and in Access to Work support. That is really important in encouraging everyone in our country who aspires to work to have an opportunity to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole made a powerful opening speech and highlighted the excellent work of the all-party group on youth employment, which he chairs. He has shared with various ministerial colleagues reports from inquiries that the APPG has conducted. Of course, I would be delighted to come to the APPG to discuss its work and to meet the youth ambassadors, who I am sure will ask challenging questions. As my hon. Friend highlighted, we have made progress on youth employment. The employment rate for those not in full-time education stands at 74.9%, and youth unemployment is down by 40% since 2010.

My hon. Friend made international comparisons, some of which I will repeat. The UK youth employment rate is 18.3 percentage points above that of the euro area and more than 16% above the EU average, but of course I agree with him that we need to do more. We therefore have a skills agenda, with a focus on apprenticeships and technical education. Colleagues have talked about the youth obligation support programme, which started in April last year, and about the ability to get work experience. We have also been encouraging work-based academies, which I think have been very successful.

My hon. Friend talked about whether there should be better working across Government on these issues. Of course, many are joined up. I can confirm that we have a number of taskforce initiatives where Ministers work together. He will be pleased to know that straight after this debate I will be having a meeting with the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills to discuss precisely these issues.

The Government are funding lifelong learning pilots, investing in a national retraining scheme, and delivering basic digital skills and careers advice for older workers who need them. We are also ensuring there is support to assist those with a health condition or disability, to make sure they are able to access the support they need to move into work.

On the cost of living, I know that all Members will welcome the fact that the ONS reported last month that salaries are starting to outpace inflation. I certainly want to see that very welcome trend continue. We absolutely recognise that people need additional support with living costs, and we have been providing that support. We have recognised that high childcare costs can affect parents’ decisions to take up paid work or increase their working hours. That is why, by 2019-20, we will be spending around £6 billion a year on childcare support. That includes 30 hours’ free childcare for working parents of three and four-year-olds. Within universal credit, claimants are eligible to claim up to 85% of their childcare costs. The outcome from independent evaluation in areas of early introduction shows that, with increased childcare support, parents are able to work more flexibly and increase their hours. We are championing shared parental leave and have introduced a right to request flexible working.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) welcomed the increase in personal allowances, which means that a typical basic rate taxpayer now pays more than £1,000 less in income tax than in 2010. We also introduced the national living wage in 2016, which increased by 4.4% this April. Thanks to the national living wage, full-time minimum wage workers have had a boost of £2,000 since 2016.

Numerous colleagues, including the hon. Members for Edinburgh North and Leith and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, talked about job quality and the Matthew Taylor review. Although we need to continue to work to maintain high levels of employment, I absolutely agree that we must also address the important issue of job quality. Among its recommendations, last year’s Taylor review asked the Government to focus on the quality of work and to identify a set of measures to evaluate job quality.

A strand of the Government’s industrial strategy has a focus on the creation of good jobs and greater earnings power for all, so the Government have outlined five foundational aspects of good work: overall satisfaction; good pay, which includes perceptions of fairness relative to one’s peers; participation and progression in the workforce, which includes the ability to work flexibly and acquire new skills; wellbeing, safety and security at work; and voice and autonomy in the workplace. It is self-evident that if people feel a sense of control over how they carry out their job, they will generally feel much more positive about it. The Government are working with experts to identify a set of measures against which we can evaluate quality of work, and I certainly look forward to the outcome of that work.

I have time to go through a number of points that colleagues have raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole talked about the hospitality industry, and we absolutely want to see a strong and vibrant hospitality sector. I recently met Brigid Simmonds, chief executive officer of the British Beer & Pub Association, to talk about the hospitality sector. In February this year, the Department for Work and Pensions ran the annual Hospitality Works campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the thousands of great career options that exist in the sector and to showcase some of the key employers we work with.

Scottish Welfare Powers

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Tuesday 20th March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 5:19 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a really important point, but I am so short of time.

In Scotland, some 50,000 households with three or more children are in receipt of tax credits. From April 2017, families no longer received support through child tax credits or universal credit for any third or subsequent child born on or after that date. That also applies to new UC claims. On top of that, the abolition of the family element of the child tax credit for all families whose third child is born after the April 2017 deadline will affect thousands of families who will lose £545 a year. Yet in Scotland the SNP blocked Labour’s plan to introduce a child benefit top-up of £260 each year, which would have lifted 30,000 children out of poverty. After housing costs, 26% of children in Scotland were living in relative poverty in 2015-16—approximately 260,000 children. Does the Minister think that is acceptable? Why does he refuse to act?

On top of that, the switch to universal credit will cause up to 100,000 families in Scotland who are currently in receipt of housing or council tax benefit to lose an average of £1,196 a year in state support for childcare costs. Universal credit is clearly not fit for purpose, so why does the Minister refuse to pause the roll-out and fix the problems to make the system work?

Members have spoken about the flexible payment system, which is important—we have been calling for one for the rest of the UK—and the system of split payment. I would be grateful if the Minister explained to us whether there are any practical reasons why split payments cannot be the default position. There is a great deal of concern about the impact that the current system has on the safety of people living in situations of domestic violence.

Labour has long campaigned for the abolition of the bedroom tax right across the UK, so we welcome the Scottish Government’s action to mitigate its impact. Like the bedroom tax, the imminent changes to support for mortgage interest is another Conservative policy that will hit those on low incomes. Right now, 11,000 people in Scotland who rely on the current scheme have little more than a month to decide whether to take out a loan or pay for the shortfall. I am eager to hear what the Minister has to say about that devastating yet avoidable change. Will he delay the impending changes and review the impact of the options before him?

We welcome the Scottish Government’s agreement with Labour that the new social security agency in Scotland should have a duty to ensure take-up, but we should go further. Will the Minister commit to considering a duty for the rest of the UK? We need a social security system that is reliable, is there for us in our time of need, and provides support should any of us become sick or disabled, or fall on hard times. I am interested to hear how the Minister intends to address that in the light of the changes his party is pursuing.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 5:19 p.m.

It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) on securing this debate on a key issue for the citizens of Scotland.

We have had an incredibly spirited debate, in which a range of views have been expressed. Of course there have been disagreements, but that demonstrates, as my hon. Friends the Members for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont) noted, that ultimately we all care about our constituents and want to do the best by them. That is why we need to work together, across all parties, to ensure that we deliver for the people of Scotland.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 5:19 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
20 Mar 2018, 5:20 p.m.

No, I will not, if the hon. Lady does not mind. A lot of comments have been made, and I want to deal with them.

The devolution of welfare powers represents a considerable and positive change, but it will require strong collaboration and co-operation from all sides if it is to be a success. The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) asked about the UK’s commitment. I can tell him that we have set up and resourced dedicated teams to lead on Scottish devolutions; we have shared—and we continue to share—our learnings and experience with the Scottish Government; we have run more than 100 workshops and operational visits; and we have shared many hundreds of pieces of information. We are absolutely committed to working in partnership with the Scottish Government to ensure a safe and secure transfer of the welfare powers for which they now have responsibility.

Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, and our economic and welfare reform policies recognise that. Unemployment in Scotland is at a near historic low, which we should all welcome, and more people see greater security in retirement. Following the decisive result of the 2014 independence referendum and the ensuing Smith commission, we are delivering on the promises we made to people in Scotland by devolving £2.8 billion in welfare powers.

Women and Work

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Wednesday 14th March 2018

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
14 Mar 2018, 3:52 p.m.

My final line is that we must fight for equal rights at work, because they are essential if we are to have an equal society.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
14 Mar 2018, 3:52 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean) on securing this important debate. In her speech, she spoke with passion and from the heart about her own experiences. It is often our shared experiences that drive us to bring about change and improvements. There was a discussion about role models, as raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty), and he is right: they matter as well.

Many colleagues noted that last week we celebrated International Women’s Day, when we reflected on the achievements and progress of women not only in the workplace but in everyday life. This year’s theme encouraged everyone, regardless of gender, to press for progress—to think, act and be more gender-inclusive every day. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch that it is important that we celebrate the success and the progress that we are making for women in work, but I also agree with many colleagues that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) noted, there is more to do.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and others talked about the joint-record high for female employment, which, at 70.8%, is five percentage points higher than in 2010. I have no wish to introduce any note of rancour in the debate, but I point out that under the last Labour Government the highest rate was 67%, back in 2008. I agree that all of us—politicians and businesses—should be working together to improve the employment rate further.

Food Poverty: Merseyside

Debate between Alok Sharma and Margaret Greenwood
Tuesday 16th January 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Work and Pensions
Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and for many disabled people, the need to heat their home is also a bigger element in their weekly bills.

Will the Government reverse the cuts to support for disabled people in universal credit? Those cuts will have an increasing impact as universal credit is rolled out to a wider range of claimants. Lone parents and their children constitute the largest number of people receiving help from food banks overall. A study for the Equality and Human Rights Commission found that lone parents were set to lose around 15% of their net income on average—around £1 in every £6—and that households with three or more children could lose as much as £5,400 per year. Will the Government look again at reversing the two-child policy, and heed the warning from the Resolution Foundation that cuts to the work allowance could act as a disincentive for some lone parents to work additional hours, once they have entered employment doing a smaller number of hours at the start?

The Government recently announced that children would be eligible for free school meals if their family’s income was £7,400 per year or less, excluding social security. That creates a cliff edge in universal credit, which could create a disincentive for people to work additional hours—that has always been the Government’s argument against tax credits in general. Free school meals are worth £2.30 per child per day, which over a 38-week school year works out at £437 per child. The Resolution Foundation has calculated that crossing the threshold by earning more than £7,400 a year would effectively mean losing £11 a week in income, and it would take £30 of earnings to claw that back, given the universal credit taper rate. Eligibility for free school meals is another area where families lose more the larger they are. People in insecure work whose income may fluctuate from week to week could face a difficult choice. Will the Government act to avoid families being put in that situation by removing the cliff edge and ensuring that all children in families who receive universal credit are eligible for free school meals?

To conclude, let me underline the seriousness of the situation. New figures this morning show that food prices are still increasing by more than 4%. There is a freeze in key working age benefits until 2020, and wages are stagnating for those in work, particularly those on low incomes. Universal credit is far from fixed, and aspects such as the low level of support for disabled people and the cliff edge for eligibility for free school meals have received much less attention. The Government should act to fix those problems with universal credit at an early stage before people are driven into extreme poverty, and they should return to the original principles of universal credit to ensure that work always pays. They need to tackle poverty, not push families into it.

Just as people are experiencing multiple forms of destitution, there may be more than one reason why someone is forced to turn to a food bank for help. If those groups most likely to use a food bank—disabled people, lone parents, and larger families—are also those who have been hit the hardest by cuts to social security support since 2012, and by cuts to local authority spending and a reduction of services in their areas, then the social security net is clearly not doing the job it is designed to do. It should be protecting people in their time of need.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Minister for Employment (Alok Sharma) - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:33 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David, in this important debate—my first as Minister for Employment—and I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) on securing it.

The Prime Minister is absolutely clear: the Government are committed to building a country that works for everyone, where no one and no community is left behind. I would like to think that all Members of the House share that ambition. I completely agree that we need to provide appropriate support for the least well-off and most disadvantaged people in our society, and we must do all we can to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Part of that is making sure that people get help with the cost of living.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:48 p.m.

That is the word of an individual who actually has made use of the system.

Ensuring that people get the benefits they are entitled to is important. Whether in work or not, jobcentre staff help their customers to ensure they access their full entitlement to benefits and any other support, such as free school meals and free prescriptions. They also have tailored support for those people who face the most complex employment barriers. That can include temporarily lifting requirements where claimants are homeless, in treatment for drug or alcohol dependency, or victims of domestic abuse.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby raised a point about people having delays in getting money paid to them. The statistic on universal credit is that 92% of all claimants get all the money they are due paid on time. Of course, no one wants to wait for money if they need it—advances can be claimed on the same day in an emergency.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:48 p.m.

The Minister is being generous with his time. He is talking about support for the most vulnerable, so would his Government reverse the cuts to support for disabled people under universal credit?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:50 p.m.

Hopefully I will have enough time to respond to that point—I believe the hon. Lady is talking about the higher rate of disability premium.

A number of other points were raised about food banks. Jobcentre staff also work in partnership with a variety of local agencies and signpost claimants to local services, including food banks, to help them access the full range of support available. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby quoted from a report from 2016 by Taylor and Loopstra based on UN data. There are a number of reports, including one on income and living conditions produced by Eurostat, which found that the UK has a lower percentage of food insecurity than the EU average and a lower percentage than Germany, France and Italy. Ultimately, we need to ensure that we get help to people who need it, and that we help them into work so that they can support themselves.

Break in Debate

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:51 p.m.

I have given way quite a lot in this debate. If I may, I will continue. If I have time at the end, I will of course take further interventions.

Food inflation has been discussed. Food prices have fallen in three of the past four years, which has a positive impact. Let me address up front the question about the use of food banks. The Government do not propose to record the number of food banks in the UK, or indeed the potential number of people using them or other types of food aid. There is a range of available food aid—from small local provision to regional and national schemes—and the all-party parliamentary group on hunger, which set up an inquiry to thoroughly investigate the use of food banks, said that there were numerous complex reasons why people use food banks.

Jobcentres engage regularly with the Trussell Trust, and are encouraged to foster good relationships with local food banks. In Merseyside, all jobcentres have a food bank single point of contact, and jobcentre staff have been working actively with food banks to ensure that staff are up to speed with the changes resulting from universal credit.

The hon. Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Ms Rimmer) mentioned international comparisons. I refer her to statistics produced by the OECD showing that, since the mid-2000s, the UK has been one of only two major advanced economies with increasing redistribution. It found that, since 2010, growth and income from work for the lowest-income households in the UK is higher than in any other major advanced economy.

The Government have always been clear that universal credit would be introduced in a way that allows us to continue making improvements. That is why, at the autumn Budget, we announced a comprehensive and wide-ranging package of measures worth £1.5 billion to address concerns about the first assessment period and the budgeting issues faced by some claimants at the start of their claim. Since the start of this year, claimants have been able to get 100% of their estimated universal credit payment up front as an advance that they can pay back interest-free over 12 months.

I will address a couple of other points, as I have a few minutes. On the point about disability payments, as the hon. Member for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood) knows, income-related employment and support allowance and the link to disability premiums, including the severe disability premium, are being replaced by universal credit as part of simplifying the benefit process and to address overlaps. Universal credit has two disability elements for adults, mirroring the design of ESA. The higher rate is set substantially higher than the ESA support component equivalent.

Margaret Greenwood Portrait Margaret Greenwood - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:53 p.m.

That being the case, why will some disabled people receive £65 a week less than they would have before universal credit?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma - Hansard
16 Jan 2018, 3:54 p.m.

I am happy to have a dialogue with the hon. Lady, particularly in my new role, but I point out, as I have said, that the rate is set substantially higher than the ESA support component equivalent. However, I am happy to enter into a dialogue with her outside this debate.