Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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10. What steps his Department is taking to support pensioners.

Louie French Portrait Mr Louie French (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
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19. What steps his Department is taking to support pensioners.

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Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard
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I am grateful for that question. The answer could not be further from nothing. This is a Government with a proven track record of supporting pensioners, including our commitment to the triple lock. In April we will see the state pension raised by 8.5% this year, after an increase of 10.1% last year, meaning that it will be a full £3,200 higher in cash terms than it was in 2010.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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I very much welcome the record on supporting pensioners that my hon. Friend has just outlined. A number of pensioners in my constituency have contacted me about the effects of fiscal drag—they may have a very modest private pension that is now being dragged into tax when they never expected it to be. What steps is my hon. Friend taking in conjunction with the Treasury to ensure that we can get pensioners on modest private pensions out of tax?

Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard
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This is the Government who have nearly doubled the personal allowance since 2010, ensuring that most of the lowest earners do not pay income tax. Indeed, thanks to the personal allowance, around 30% of individuals do not pay tax, and of course any pensioner solely reliant on the state pension does not pay income tax.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 18th December 2023

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Louie French Portrait Mr Louie French (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
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3. What steps his Department is taking to support the long-term unemployed into work.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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7. What steps his Department is taking to support the long-term unemployed into work.

Jo Churchill Portrait The Minister for Employment (Jo Churchill)
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It is a pleasure to be back, Mr Speaker. We are delivering a suite of measures as part of the back to work plan, supporting customers on their journey to employment. That is focused on developing skills and building confidence through interventions such as the restart scheme. We are working across Government to support those with health conditions get back to work, with programmes such as our WorkWell service.

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Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill
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I thank my hon. Friend because he speaks perfectly for those of us across the Conservative family. Work is positive, a force for good, and the system should be fair to the taxpayer and the claimant, with checks and balances. It is right that, on average, those in work are some £6,000 better off per year. Universal credit was introduced and further rolled out because it is a welfare system that makes work pay.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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Skills are clearly key to supporting the long-term unemployed to find work. Buckinghamshire Council is launching a series of skills bootcamps, targeted at the long-term unemployed. For example, one bootcamp will provide construction skills, including a construction skills certification scheme card, plus support to reach self-employment and wraparound support on how to set up a company. Will my hon. Friend congratulate Buckinghamshire Council on that initiative, and say what more she can do to ensure that those who need to upgrade their skills base are able to do so?

Jo Churchill Portrait Jo Churchill
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I am delighted to congratulate not only Buckinghamshire Council but my hon. Friend on the fantastic work he does in his constituency. Upskilling jobseekers, particularly in areas such as construction where we need more domestic workers, is vital. The Department for Work and Pensions continues to support individuals into employment through back to work programmes such as the restart scheme, which provides tailored training programmes and sector-based work academy programmes similar to those mentioned by my hon. Friend. It offers training, work placements, and guaranteed job interviews, and I am committed to exploring what more can be done.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 13th November 2023

(7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
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What I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that no decisions have been made. It is right and proper that the consultation responses are properly considered in the normal way. I would be happy to meet with Parkinson’s UK again; I met it previously, and it is an important stakeholder for the Department. We do think it is right that we look at the work capability assessment and review it periodically, not least because of the changes we have seen in homeworking and flexible working in recent years.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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16. What steps his Department is taking to support more parents into work.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Minister for Employment (Guy Opperman)
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There have been transformational changes in childcare, skills, training and support for future employers, as announced at the spring Budget. It is absolutely the case that from April 2024, eligible working parents of two-year-olds will be able to access 15 hours of free childcare per week from the term after the second birthday, plus there will be the delivery of more support for working parents of children over the age of nine months with 30 free hours of childcare. There is nowhere in the world that compares with our childcare offer on an ongoing basis. We have virtually Scandinavian levels.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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I am a huge supporter of the bold action that the Government are taking to tackle the costs of childcare and get more parents into work. However, some settings in my constituency report that the rate the Government pay does not cover the full costs of providing that place, putting them in an untenable position. Can my hon. Friend work with me, alongside the Department for Education, to ensure that the scheme is fully working and that the childcare places are actually there to be able to take up this generous Government support?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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I am happy to convene a summit with the Department for Education, my hon. Friend and his unitary authority to discuss the ways in which we are ensuring that. We are already working in partnership with the DFE to deliver this campaign, and clearly the Government are committed to ensuring that the implementation of the expansion to 30 hours is dealt with in an appropriate and seamless way.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 5th December 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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7. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of reducing the universal credit taper rate on the levels of people’s incomes.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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11. What assessment he has made of the potential merits of reducing the universal credit taper rate on the levels of people’s incomes.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Minister for Employment (Guy Opperman)
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We reduced the earnings taper to 55% last December and we increased the work allowance by £500 a year. As a consequence, 1.7 million households will benefit from these measures, which mean that they keep, on average, around an extra £1,000 a year. That encourages in-work progression as claimants are clearly better off in work.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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My hon. Friend will be aware that Rugby jobcentre is doing a fantastic job locally; I look forward to visiting in 2023. Since April 2022, we have been rolling out the new in-work progression offer, which will support approximately 2.1 million working universal credit claimants to progress into higher-paid work. They will also be supported by progression champions, of whom we have 37 across the country, including in Mercia.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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Universal credit was always intended to ensure that work pays. Reducing the taper rate is a critical part of that, but does my hon. Friend agree that it is not the only critical element? To keep unemployment as low as it is today or lower, things like increasing access to work coaches are equally important.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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A huge amount is being done to increase the time that individual claimants spend with work coaches. More intensive support is being provided. The additional earnings threshold, which my hon. Friend will be fully aware of, is also being rolled out across the country to ensure that we see claimants in better-paid jobs on a longer-term basis.

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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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On assisting the disabled into employment, this Government have an excellent record through Disability Confident. Our work coaches do a huge amount of work to ensure that those with disabilities are in work. The right hon. Gentleman will know the Department is currently undertaking a large amount of work on economic inactivity. I heard his recent comments, which were very interesting, and my door is always open to conversations about working together.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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T2. Research by Macmillan shows that 83% of people with a cancer diagnosis experience a financial impact from that, with the average figure being £891 a month on top of their usual expenditure, which sometimes means they cannot afford to get to their medical appointments. What more can be done to ensure that those with a cancer diagnosis get rapid access to everything to which they are entitled?

Tom Pursglove Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Tom Pursglove)
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this point. The experience he describes illustrates the troubling and worrying times for families when a diagnosis of cancer comes through. We are committed to ensuring that people can access financial support, through the personal independence payment and other benefits for which they are eligible, in a timely manner. We are seeing a gradual improvement on PIP claims, with the latest statistics showing that the average end-to-end journey has steadily reduced from 26 weeks in August 2021 to 18 weeks at the end of July 2022. However, I am not complacent on this; digitisation clearly plays an important part and we are going to go further.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 8th November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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1. What steps she is taking to ensure that the household support fund helps the most vulnerable during winter 2021-22.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Dr Thérèse Coffey)
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We have made £500 million available across the UK to support vulnerable households this winter. It really is for local authorities, which are closer to their communities, to use the funding to support those with needs for food, utilities and wider essentials. They are best placed to design schemes that support those most in need locally.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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The £500 million household support fund is extremely welcome and my local council is busy ensuring that support reaches those who need it through their excellent Helping Hand scheme. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Buckinghamshire Council on ensuring that a comprehensive package is available for those who are sadly unable to put food on the table or heat their homes, and will she set out what more can be done to ensure that those in such distressing circumstances know that local authorities have the resources and should be the first port of call?

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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My hon. Friend is right to praise Buckinghamshire Council, which was allocated £2.4 million from the fund. It is fair to say that local authorities delivering the household support fund have access to elements relating to health visitors, social workers and housing departments, and access to the benefits system through the Searchlight portal, to identify people who may need help at this time and are most in need. Of course, people should turn to their councils for that support, and they should be warmly welcomed.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 28th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to topical questions.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Dr Thérèse Coffey)
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Mr Speaker, I was really looking forward to answering Question 35, from the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine), but that is okay.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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Well, there we are. By the way, Christine, the answer is none.

On the topical statement, on the basis of a successful G7, at which the employers taskforce fed into the discussions about work, I was able to participate in the G20 last week in Italy, as well as work on the OECD in terms of some of the work we want to do to make sure that, as a world, when we build back better we share and collaborate, because we want to make sure that we build back fairer and greener. I am particularly excited about the opportunities to help people with health conditions and disability to re-enter the world of work.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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Increasingly sophisticated digital skills are ever more crucial for those seeking work. With that in mind, what steps is my right hon. Friend taking to help all universal credit claimants to improve and strengthen their digital skills as they seek work?

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Coffey
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I am conscious that digital inclusion is a key part of the skills issue. We are working collaboratively with the DFE, particularly on digital boot camps, and we have even changed the rules of aspects of universal credit to make sure that people can fully participate in extended courses. We will continue to use and signpost people to whatever resources are available.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 14th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking with employers to help ensure as many young people as possible benefit from the Kickstart scheme.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking with employers to help ensure as many young people as possible benefit from the Kickstart scheme.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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What steps her Department is taking with employers to help ensure as many young people as possible benefit from the Kickstart scheme.

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Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith
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I warmly welcome the kickstart scheme, which is a vital step to ensuring the future prosperity of so many young people across our country. In Buckinghamshire, organisations such as Buckinghamshire Business First are helping to co-ordinate firms that cannot offer as many as 30 places. What steps is my hon. Friend taking at national level to ensure that small rural businesses are able fully to participate?

Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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I am delighted with the interest in the kickstart scheme across the country, including in rural areas, and including smaller companies in that is key. We want applicants from across the country to benefit by bidding for those placements , perhaps via an intermediary or gateway organisation. Small employers, whether rural or not, will have the key support they need from that intermediary, and that will help to create high-quality roles and provide additional support, so that all our young people get the most out of this placement.

Oral Answers to Questions

Greg Smith Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mims Davies Portrait Mims Davies
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We are actively working with colleagues across Government, including the Business Secretary, with whom I have had several roundtable discussions, to get people back into work and open up as soon as possible. The Government are committed to reopening businesses in a phased approach, guided by the science, when it is safe to do so; I confess an absolute personal need for these sectors to reopen. However, where there are job losses, DWP staff are on hand to work with claimants to support them to get back into work.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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Schemes such as Access to Work are vital in helping many disabled people start and remain in work. Will my hon. Friend outline how the Department is flexing existing support to help those disabled people, many of whom are now required to work from home?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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That is a very important point. We are looking at additional ways we can support people, through Access to Work, to travel to and from their home to work and in terms of their ability to work from home. There are opportunities for us to make some of those changes more permanent as we start to return to normality.