Jeremy Quin debates involving the Department for Work and Pensions

There have been 19 exchanges involving Jeremy Quin and the Department for Work and Pensions

Mon 4th June 2018 Personal Independence Payments 3 interactions (42 words)
Mon 21st May 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 5 interactions (84 words)
Mon 26th March 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (30 words)
Wed 28th February 2018 Pensions Auto-enrolment (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (865 words)
Thu 8th February 2018 Motability 3 interactions (75 words)
Tue 23rd January 2018 Personal Independence Payment 7 interactions (55 words)
Mon 22nd January 2018 Private Sector Pensions 3 interactions (40 words)
Mon 22nd January 2018 Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords] 3 interactions (1,267 words)
Thu 7th December 2017 Financial Inclusion 6 interactions (1,894 words)
Tue 24th October 2017 Universal Credit Roll-out 16 interactions (954 words)
Wed 18th October 2017 Universal Credit Roll-out 3 interactions (501 words)
Tue 28th February 2017 Intergenerational Fairness 3 interactions (76 words)
Wed 16th November 2016 Autumn Statement Distributional Analysis, Universal Credit and ESA 7 interactions (92 words)
Wed 20th July 2016 Supported Housing: Benefit 3 interactions (63 words)
Mon 11th July 2016 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (24 words)
Tue 10th May 2016 Universal Credit (Children) 7 interactions (100 words)
Mon 20th July 2015 Welfare Reform and Work Bill 7 interactions (648 words)
Thu 9th July 2015 Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation 17 interactions (1,247 words)
Wed 1st July 2015 Child Poverty 3 interactions (49 words)

Personal Independence Payments

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 4th June 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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4 Jun 2018, 3:47 p.m.

This is a brand new benefit that, for the first time, looks not just at people with physical disabilities, but fundamentally at all the disabilities people have—cognitive, sensory, health and mental health conditions—and supports more people than DLA ever did.

Nobody was forced to come here to explain why I did not appeal the mobility case. I made a decision by myself, which I thought was true and in keeping with how PIP was designed, and I made sure that we did not seek leave to appeal that.

There was a period of uncertainty for the five months between the court case and when the new regulations came into play. I agreed that in the cases of AN and JM, they should not be living in uncertainty. I believe that in both instances, I have done the right thing in not seeking leave to appeal.

I appreciate that the Opposition do not like to hear the fact that we have, I would say, made a positive move by not seeking to appeal and by supporting these extra people. No one would believe it from the screams from the Opposition Benches, but what I have decided to do and what this Government have decided to do is to support disabled people as best we can and to provide this new benefit, which is a personalised, forward-looking benefit, which was not the case with DLA.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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4 Jun 2018, 3:47 p.m.

How many claimants will be affected by this decision, which I welcome? Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that it will in no way impact on her sterling efforts to ensure that more disabled people find their way into work?

Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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4 Jun 2018, 3:48 p.m.

My hon. Friend raises several questions about helping disabled people into work. Over the last three years, we have helped more than 600,000 people into work. People will know that PIP is a benefit for those in work and those out of work, and we have helped another 200,000 people in work through PIP. This is what we are about: supporting disabled people who are in work and out of work, and bringing in a more tailored and personalised benefit. What I will say is that if something has gone wrong and if something is not right, we will correct it to make sure that people get the payments they deserve.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 21st May 2018

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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21 May 2018, 3:07 p.m.

The pensions industry can and should make the most of the opportunity presented by FinTech. We believe that if it is to succeed, it will be vital for industry and Government to collaborate in the development of the pensions dashboard. As others countries have shown, pensions dashboards are a fantastic way of giving people access to pension information in a clear and simple form, bringing together an individual’s savings in a single place online.

Mr Speaker
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21 May 2018, 3:07 p.m.

Well, the question was about Windsor, but the answer was broad and expansive in its scope. The hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin)—as befits a former constituency chairman of mine—is a keen young fellow, and I think that we should hear from him.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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21 May 2018, 3:07 p.m.

Young? You flatter me, Mr Speaker. I already had my excuse: I was going to say that we were all taking a close interest in the Windsor constituency at present. My particular interest, in relation to Windsor pensioners, is in the fact that they are being held back by a lack of knowledge about their pension provision. Does my hon. Friend agree that a properly constituted pensions dashboard would encourage pensioners to take their own fate in their hands, and would encourage accountability?

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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It is true that Windsor is the centre of the universe, and we should all congratulate Prince Harry and Meghan on their marriage at the weekend. It is also true that Windsor, and all parts of the United Kingdom, will benefit from the pensions dashboard. The internet has transformed travel, insurance and other businesses when they have gone online, and we believe that when the pensions industry comes out of the Victorian age and goes online, there will be great progress for everyone.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 26th March 2018

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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26 Mar 2018, 2:43 p.m.

We have had this debate before, and this has been corrected many times. Actually, 50,000 more children are going to have free school meals. These scaremongering stories are not true at all. Let us look at what is happening. We now have 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty—a record low. We now have 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty—a new record low. There are also 500,000 fewer working-age adults in absolute poverty—a record low. This Government are about helping people to get into work, which is the first step they can take towards taking control of their life. From there, they can have career progression.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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26 Mar 2018, 2:44 p.m.

I commend my right hon. Friend for the roll-out of universal credit. How does that compare with the debacle that was the implementation of tax credits under a previous Government?

Mr Speaker
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Order. No dilation is required. A pithy encapsulation of what the Secretary of State regards as her personal triumph is one thing, but a lengthy denigration of the policies of the previous Government would be another.

Pensions Auto-enrolment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 28th February 2018

(3 years ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Work and Pensions
Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb
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28 Feb 2018, 4:56 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point very well.

Let me make one further point before I conclude and allow other hon. Members to speak. My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham appeared to indicate that she supports rates increasing above those that have been set out for April 2019. I absolutely agree: both employees and employers will need to make even greater contributions. It is easy to talk about that in this place, but it is much more difficult to get it across to the businesses and individuals affected, so I would be interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that. He is a brilliant Pensions Minister. I heard him speak in another part of the Palace earlier, and he has an incredibly strong grasp of the detail, which is exactly what we need from Ministers as we get to grips with the challenges of auto-enrolment.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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28 Feb 2018, 4:57 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, Mr Davies. I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) for calling this debate. Too often, we come to the Chamber to have a good moan about things, but I sincerely hope that we have cross-party agreement today. Auto-enrolment should be warmly praised on both sides of the House, because it has been a great success. Some 19 million people are now enrolled in qualifying workplace pensions, 9 million of whom came through auto-enrolment. That means that we have increased by a quarter the percentage of the population who are in qualifying schemes. That is a success on any terms.

In addition to the policy being a success, its execution has been a success. My right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) was too modest to refer to his role in that, but a succession of Secretaries of State, both Conservative and Labour, oversaw the successful introduction of a good policy. For 1 million employers to be part of the scheme—including, I am proud to say, 1,860 in my constituency—and for opt-out rates to be as low as they are is a success.

I will dwell on that success for just a second longer while I talk about the long-term implications of what we have done. It is estimated that by 2019-20 an extra £20 billion a year will be being saved in pensions, which will ensure that people have a more comfortable retirement than would otherwise have been the case. There is more success in the small print: the biggest increase in participation has been among those on lower incomes and those working for smaller employers.

Unfortunately, as we are all aware, that is not the end of the story. We have had such positive buy-in from employers that, like other Members, I am nervous about the increase in the contribution rate to 3% in April 2019, but that is clearly a risk we have to take. If we cannot take that risk and push that envelope at a time when we have record rates of employment, there will never be a time for it. Even from there, as has been alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire, a savings rate of 8% will still leave 12 million individuals undersaving for their retirement.

We all know the huge power of inertia. There is a real risk that if people are told that is what they have got to save, they believe that is what they need to save, but we in this House know that that is not the case. The evidence from Australia and elsewhere is that higher rates will be required. I welcome the scheduled review of contribution rates. It may be difficult and painful, but it is necessary. I also welcome some of the other proposed reforms over the next few years that have been alluded to, such as lowering the relevant age from 22 to 18, bringing an extra 900,000 workers into the scheme, and removing the lower earnings limit, which will add nearly £3 billion a year to benefit in particular lower earnings workers, those with a part-time job and those with a number of part-time jobs.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham eloquently described the issues faced by the self-employed. I agree that a participation rate in that growing sector of 19% is far too low. That is rightly a matter of concern. She produced some interesting ideas, and I look forward to the ministerial response. She and I would agree that there needs to be a structure in place for the self-employed. Again, it comes back to default and inertia: as long as there is no structure in place, they will not feel a need to go in, participate and make the provision for retirements that they require.

Many good things are coming out of the review. Of course, I have extra questions to ask my hon. Friend the Minister. Has the Department made an estimate of the number of individuals with earnings below the trigger rate of £10,000 per annum who are opting into the scheme? That would be good to know, to work through whether the scheme can be usefully extended below that rate. Opt-out rates are particularly low, but less so for small and micro-employers. Is that a matter of concern for the Department? What is it doing to address that?

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) referred to the need to understand the position and what can be done about it. I would love to hear more from the Minister about the pensions dashboard, which he referred to in his intervention, which I want to see extended to cover not just pensions but more assets. I also want to hear more about the mid-life review. My hon. Friend the Minister is a mere spring chicken, so he may not be under any personal time pressure to implement a mid-life review, but an MOT, as recommended by John Cridland, would be an excellent way to help people, as the Minister said, understand where they stand.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (in the Chair)
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I call Paul Masterton— I think you have got time for your pension.

Motability

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2018

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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8 Feb 2018, 10:46 a.m.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I will meet him to decide between us, with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), which questions would be best to focus on.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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8 Feb 2018, 10:46 a.m.

I am pleased to follow the Chairman of the Select Committee. In the recent past, with regard to BHS, his Committee and this House have raised grave concerns about corporate governance in private companies. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those concerns are particularly pertinent when private companies are so reliant on the public sector? If she shares those concerns, will she ensure that that is included in the remit of the NAO report?

Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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8 Feb 2018, 10:47 a.m.

My hon. Friend pursues this matter with tenacity. I will be getting in touch with the Business Secretary to discuss what additional actions need to be taken in the forthcoming new law on corporate governance.

Personal Independence Payment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd January 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Mr Speaker
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23 Jan 2018, 1:24 p.m.

I call Julian Knight.

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker
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I call Jeremy Quin.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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23 Jan 2018, 1:26 p.m.

And finally, Mr Speaker.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that PIP claimants, including those who will benefit from her decision, which I warmly welcome, will not be subject to the benefit cap in respect of these payments, and that payments will continue to be untaxed and, indeed, will rise by the rate of inflation?

Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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My hon. Friend is right that PIP is not subject to the benefit cap. A person will get PIP irrespective of whether they are in work. PIP is also not means-tested.

Private Sector Pensions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 22nd January 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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22 Jan 2018, 4 p.m.

The situation is being assessed at the moment, and what happened is being investigated. The regulator already has the power to look into anti-avoidance measures and enforcement, which could be utilised to do precisely what the hon. Lady talks about. Strengthening the regulator’s hand was in our manifesto, and we will be bringing that forward in the White Paper.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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22 Jan 2018, 4 p.m.

Hon. Members are understandably focusing on the directors of Carillion but, having been through the BHS investigation conducted by this House, I encourage my right hon. Friend to look closely at the expertise, advice and powers available to pension trustees.

Esther McVey Portrait Ms McVey
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22 Jan 2018, 4 p.m.

I will indeed do that. My hon. Friend knows a lot about such matters. We will take advice such as that and the 800 responses to the Green Paper into account when drawing up our solution.

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 22nd January 2018

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy
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22 Jan 2018, 6:21 p.m.

I do not mean that debt is higher as a proportion of income; I meant that it is higher as a percentage of disposable income, which the Minister will find it is.

The Government need to do three things with the scheme if they are properly to grant the breathing space people need. First, the scheme must be applicable to all relevant debts, including central and local government debt. To take one example, I recently met the organisation Every Child Leaving Care Matters, where I learned about the problems some care leavers face with things such as council tax obligations. After years of having these bills paid for them, they can often find themselves with mounting debt and without the support, including family support, that many of us here take for granted. That is why I was delighted when Labour-led Hull City Council announced recently that nearly 350 youngsters leaving the care system in the city would not have to pay council tax in Hull until they turned 21.

The scheme will be one of the first policies of its kind in the country when it starts next April and could mean that each of these people saves at least £900 a year. That is fantastic news for Hull but unfortunately not for the rest of my constituents in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. We can end this unacceptable postcode lottery by supporting the Bill today. It is not just care leavers who are affected either—many people owe money to central and local government—and by ensuring that these debts are included in the breathing space scheme we can help care leavers and many others keep their heads above water.

Secondly, the scheme must make sure that the Government’s consultation, while thorough, is carried out as quickly as possible. There is a danger that the words,

“As soon as reasonably practicable”

in clause 8 will allow the Government to drag their feet in deciding whether to introduce this breathing space scheme. That must not be allowed to happen. The Secretary of State must act quickly to make sure that a scheme is put in place and that support is offered to those who need it now.

Thirdly, the scheme must ensure that the breathing space is long enough to provide time for families to stabilise their finances and that support is in place to allow them to pay their debts in a manageable way. It is no use holding back the creditors from the door for a randomly chosen six-week period if, at the end of those six weeks, the family can still not pay. If we are to set a breathing space, we must get the period right.

We must get this right. Not to do so would not be in the interests of our economy, which already struggles with high personal debt; it would not be in the interests of creditors, who, according to statistics from Scotland, collect more of what is owed to them when a payment plan is followed; and it would definitely not be in the interests of the many families in my constituency drowning in an ocean of personal debt. On clauses 7 and 8 at least, the Government find themselves in the rare position of enjoying cross-party support and with a rare opportunity to make my constituents’ lives a little easier. On their behalf, I ask the Minister and the Secretary of State to act quickly and, further to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) from the Front Bench, to take on board my points and grasp the opportunity being offered to help so many people.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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22 Jan 2018, 6:25 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy). I was interested in what she had to say, particularly about care leavers, which is a subject I hope we will take up later.

Notwithstanding its many flaws, the market economy is the best means we have to improve the long-term living standards of our people. The pace of technological change, however, and the impact wrought have, for all their many improvements, given rise to real concern among consumers. We have moved rapidly from a pensions and savings environment that, for most, was relatively simple: a pension entitlement derived from the state or from an employer after many years—perhaps a lifetime—of continuous service; a relationship with a known bank manager in a local branch; and savings, where they existed, that perhaps focused on state provision such as national savings or premium bonds.

Instead, we have moved towards a system where choice is far wider. Returns are likely to be far better, but risks undoubtedly increase. This transformation has taken place at the same time as confidence and trust in financial service providers—I speak as a former company adviser—has rarely been lower. The products available can and will act in the interests of society and play a role in particular in meeting the needs of our expanding retired population, but we need to provide people with access to the tools and services they need to plan their financial future with confidence. Not enough people know how to manage their money effectively, and it is in all our interests that we help to bridge that gap. Above all, however, we have an obligation to ensure that those who are most in need of support and guidance receive it.

It is my privilege to be a member of the Financial Inclusion Commission, which has championed many of these issues, and I am delighted to welcome the Second Reading of the Bill, as indeed I did, in advance of its arriving in the House, in an Adjournment debate on financial inclusion at the end of last year. As a member of the Work and Pensions Committee, I enjoyed meeting the some of the existing providers: Pension Wise and the Money Advice Service and Pensions Advisory Service. These have given sterling service, and I am delighted to understand that the leaderships of all three organisations view the creation of a single body as the best means to ensure that those who are struggling can easily access free and impartial guidance to help them make more effective decisions about their pensions and seek advice on debt.

We have already heard a great deal this afternoon on the scale of the problem the Bill seeks to help address, and I will not repeat what has been said, but one fact we have not heard is that Citizens Advice has found that 13.5 million adults find managing money and making financial decisions challenging. People across the income spectrum lack good financial guidance and advice to make the right long-term decisions for old age. Increasing longevity only contributes further to this phenomenon. The fact that we have 8.5 million people auto-enrolled for a pension is good news indeed, but as a recent report from the Select Committee highlights, the fact that more people will be able to benefit from the pension freedoms the Government have introduced makes the availability of effective guidance all the more critical.

The creation of a single financial guidance body is being welcomed not only across the House but among charities and industry. At present, according to Which?, and as was alluded to earlier, only 36% of consumers use Government advisory bodies as an information source about their financial options. I hope that the creation of this body will help to increase uptake, particularly among those who have most to benefit. The Bill sets out the objective that guidance be available to those most in need of support. In the Adjournment debate, I raised issues faced by the disabled, lone parents and single pensioners, while my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) has just referred to the terminally ill. I hope that the Minister will agree that, as we measure the success of this body, we will scrutinise its ability to direct support to the hardest-to-reach people who need it most.

More broadly, I hope that the establishment of this body will serve as an important step towards a culture change and a situation where guidance is sought as a norm at key points in one’s life. Pension Wise was a significant step towards this goal, but given the importance of pension saving earlier in life, I am keen to see this service available to all, rather than restricted to the over-50s.

I appreciate that the terms of the body are yet to be specified, but I would be interested to hear the Minister’s view on the accessibility of pension guidance earlier in life. Unlike the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), who made a good contribution earlier, I was pleased to learn that the name of the body had not yet been announced. We will therefore not have a bunch of imposters setting up rival sites. I welcome the specific offence being established in the Bill. The last thing any of us would want is for those who are seeking help to find themselves victims of scams.

In any event, in common with the hon. Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), I urge caution about too much reinvention of the wheel. Originally, the intention was for the single financial guidance body to be purely a commissioning body. We are all aware of trusted and well-established organisations in our own constituencies, such as Citizens Advice, at national level, and many more organisations at local level. In my case, that includes the Horsham Debt Advice Service. The new body will be most effective as an enabler, a director of resource and an upholder of standards. I trust that that is but the first of many steps to enhance individuals’ ability to manage their finances effectively, and I have sympathy with the points raised earlier about financial resilience and financial education.

I look forward in particular to the report on the pensions dashboard that, as I understand from the Secretary of State’s words at the Dispatch Box, will be produced in March. The dashboard will be of significant benefit to consumers and will help to drive cultural change in the industry and among savers. I know that I am not alone in thinking that, alongside the pensions dashboard, more visibility for other forms of saving would be advantageous.

Finally, I want to touch on the debt respite provisions that have been incorporated into the Bill. I welcome them, and I hope that the guidance body’s report and the Government action that follows will be accelerated as swiftly as possible, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle has said, consistent with effective legislation. Although the provisions are useful and appropriate, they will not solve the problem of debt. The nature of the debt providers matters. I hope that I am allowed, as the chair of the all-party group on credit unions, to make a small plug in favour of credit unions. The amount that they lend has doubled since 2006, and they now have 1.3 million members across the country. That is to be welcomed. The more people save with and borrow from responsible providers, the better. For all who get into difficulty, a breathing space is a practical and essential measure. I commend the Bill to the House.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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22 Jan 2018, 6:32 p.m.

I welcome the chance to speak in this debate. I will make a short speech on a topic that has been touched on by Members on both sides of the House. We seem to agree that the introduction of a duty of care for financial service providers would be a good thing. That is not currently in the Bill, but the Bill gives us a vital opportunity to take steps towards introducing such a duty of care and, in doing so, transforming the support that customers receive from their financial service providers.

As is recognised in the Bill, ensuring that people have access to the right help and advice as soon as possible is essential to stopping financial problems escalating. For people who are ill, or who are considered vulnerable in other ways, it becomes even more important. It is well known that being diagnosed with a health condition such as cancer can come with a huge and sudden financial impact. Research by Macmillan Cancer Support found that four out of five people with cancer are impacted financially by their diagnosis, which makes them, on average, £570 a month worse off. That impact, as one would expect, leaves many people struggling to keep up with their financial commitments.

Banks, building societies and other financial services providers are in a unique position to step in. They could offer short-term measures, such as flexibility on mortgage payments or interest freezes on credit cards and loans, as well as ensuring that customers are signposted early to financial help, which can help them to avoid problem debt. Some banks have made progress on that. For example, Lloyds and Nationwide have worked in partnership with Macmillan to deliver specialist support to customers who are affected by cancer. However, the overall picture is still mixed. Only one in nine people with cancer tell their bank about their diagnosis. Many people do not think that their bank can help them, or, worse, they worry that disclosing their diagnosis will have negative consequences. Of those who did tell their bank, nearly a quarter were dissatisfied with the support they received. That, to me, seems like a huge missed opportunity.

When someone is living with a long-term health condition such as cancer, the last thing they should be worrying about is money. But if people do not feel comfortable accessing support, or the support is not there when they try, their financial worries can quickly escalate. If financial service providers had a legal duty of care towards their customers, people would be given the confidence to disclose their diagnosis, knowing that they could trust their bank to act in their best interests.

For banks and other providers, that would mean being ready to respond to their customers’ needs, and designing the vital products and services that would help people focus on their health. Of course, the duty would not just help people with cancer. It would have wide-ranging benefits because it would ensure that the banking sector played its part in helping customers, particularly those who might be vulnerable, when they needed it most.

As Members may be aware, the Financial Conduct Authority has committed to publishing a discussion paper on the duty of care. Although that is welcome, I and many other Members have significant concerns about the timescale. The discussion paper will form part of the FCA’s handbook review, which will not take place until after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is clear. What that timeframe means in reality is not yet clear. What we know is that a discussion paper would be only the start of a long process of consultation and legislation, so it could be many years before a duty of care came into effect. Meanwhile, during that time, nearly 1,000 people every day in the UK will receive the devastating news that they have cancer.

This is key. Often when we discuss such issues to do with financial regulation, the debates are technical and can feel removed from the general public. The duty of care is different. The public are starting to take a real interest in the issue, and those who see the terrible impact on people of conditions such as cancer are demanding that we take action. Take Miranda, a Macmillan nurse. In her role helping patients, she sees the financial impact of cancer at first hand. I want to share a couple of quotes from Miranda with the House:

“It’s enough to cope with the effects of the treatment and the psychological effects of the diagnosis, without having to worry about money as well”.

She continues:

“To relieve the pressure of not having to pay your mortgage for six months or so…will be a tremendous help to people.”

Supported by Macmillan, Miranda has written an open letter in support of a duty of care. It has been signed by nearly 20,000 people—that is 20,000 people who want action. They do not want to wait years for change. What would the Minister say to those people? How would he justify any delay to them?

Of course, we all appreciate that Brexit will have significant implications for the financial services industry and that they will need careful thought, but that is not a valid reason for delaying the duty of care. Action is needed now, so that future changes are built on the foundation that financial services firms have a duty of care to their customers.

I urge the Minister to listen to what is being said today and to commit to working with the FCA to deliver faster action on the duty of care. He should listen to the cross-party concerns that have been set out here and in the other place. He should listen to the numerous organisations that have supported the call for a duty of care, to the Lords Select Committee on Financial Exclusion, which recommended its introduction, and to the 20,000 people who have called on the Government to take action. I thank Macmillan Cancer Support for its parliamentary briefing, which has contributed in a big way to my speech. Finally, will the Minister meet representatives of Macmillan Cancer Support to discuss the introduction of a duty of care?

Financial Inclusion

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Thursday 7th December 2017

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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7 Dec 2017, 5 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the crucial subject of financial inclusion and the single financial guidance body. It has been more than two years since financial inclusion was considered by the House, in a Westminster Hall debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd).  He applied for the debate to draw Members’ attention to the invaluable work conducted by the Financial Inclusion Commission, the cross-party body on which he served. I have since had the honour of succeeding him in that role. The last two years have seen the publication of an excellent House of Lords Select Committee report into this issue.

We are approaching the halfway point to 2020 by when the commission still hopes to see a step change in financial inclusion. The commission’s report covered a wide range of recommendations and demanded that, by 2020, every adult should have access to objective and understandable advice on credit, debt, savings and pensions. Among other objectives, it also called for a specific Minister to take the lead on financial inclusion and financial capability. I am delighted that a Minister with just those responsibilities will respond to this debate, and I know that his task is to break down silos across the Government on this important issue. I congratulate the original authors of the commission’s report on achieving that objective, and I also congratulate the Minister. I know that he is deeply committed to this area and, as a former director of a credit union myself and the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on credit unions, I recognise a kindred spirit given his extensive work supporting credit unions in his constituency.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
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It is a fair to say that the work of the Financial Inclusion Commission—I have met many of its members—needs to be recognised. In relation to credit unions, it is right that we pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done. Does he agree that we should laud the fact that credit unions now have 1.29 million members, that their members and loans have doubled since 2006, and that their deposits and assets have trebled? With respect, he is following on from the great work of my hon. Friends the Members for Worcester (Mr Walker) and for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy), who were outstanding chairs of the all-party group before him.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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7 Dec 2017, 5 p.m.

I am most grateful to the Minister. He raises a valuable point about credit unions, although they are not the focus of this debate. I do not wish to push my luck, but I hope we will have another opportunity to discuss them in the future.

The Minister is right about the progress that has been made since 2006. The increase from 2% to 3% in the interest rate allowed for credit unions has helped to make them more sustainable. It has permitted higher dividends, while ensuring that credit unions’ borrowing rates are very competitive. Without wishing to go all Gilbert and Sullivan, there is something apt in making the punishment address the root of the crime, so I am delighted that funds recovered from convicted loan sharks will, from next year, help to pay for incentives for credit union membership in the communities on which loan sharks prey.

A financially inclusive system is one that is fit for purpose for all in society, regardless of their economic status. It is one in which individuals can participate fully and not face punitive restrictions in the financial products that they can access. It is also a system in which measures are taken to help to prevent people from falling into a downward spiral of financial hardship.

 Every constituency MP knows the scale of the issues. There are approximately 1.5 million unbanked adults in the UK.  According to Citizens Advice research, 13.5 million adults have difficulty managing money and making financial decisions. The ONS found that in the first quarter of this year only 2% of income was put aside as savings. The savings of those who do have them are often woefully insufficient to deal with life’s inevitable financial pressures—because of the breakdown of a washing machine or a car needed for work—through to more fundamental losses of income. The requirement for credit is therefore a given.

Financial exclusion can be further exacerbated by factors such as the high cost of credit and pay-as-you-go services. The commission estimated this poverty premium to be a cost of £1,300 a year to our poorest families. In the meantime, many from across the income spectrum lack good financial guidance at a time when the range and complexity of financial products has never been greater, and the need to make the right long-term decisions, in the light of increasing longevity, has never been more acute. 

Financial inclusion is a huge topic, but the House will be pleased to hear that I intend to focus this debate on education, information and guidance. I was the a director of a credit union before entering this place, so I knew our sense of frustration—indeed, I am afraid, our sense of failure—at not being anywhere near as effective as we felt we should have been at persuading those in need of credit to use our cheaper community rates rather than accessing high-cost and high-risk lending.

The battle to ensure financial awareness has to start very early. I welcome the fact that the new national curriculum has made financial literacy statutory for the first time as part of citizenship education for 11 to 16-year-olds.  I also recognise that improvements in basic maths, alongside the excellent results we have seen recently in literacy, are fundamental. However, I am afraid that focusing on secondary level may be too late. A report by the Money Advice Service found that financial habits are largely formed by the age of seven. Worryingly, a separate study by the Gambling Commission found that nearly half a million children as young as 11 are gambling weekly. 

All we can do to increase financial literacy among children at primary school should be encouraged, and much can be done incrementally. I am aware that educational cartoons have been produced in Singapore and elsewhere to teach the basics of financial literacy at the very earliest ages. Simply having a single teacher in a school with the knowledge and understanding of how to teach financial literacy, who can act as a focus for provision inside that school, can be critical.

 Any Member of this place knows how bewildering financial information can be to consumers. We all, in common with every citizens advice bureau in the country, are aware of the dreaded presentation at advice surgeries of a carrier bag full of financial information, much of which will be highly complex. We need to harness modern technology to help to provide our citizens with clear information about their financial position so that we help them to make educated judgments. Nowhere is this more apparent or more pressing than on pensions. All too many people suffer the scandal of lost pensions, while countless others are unaware of their post-retirement financial position until it is too late. I certainly know of examples of lost pensions from my own constituency.

It was a real pleasure to serve on the Work and Pensions Committee in the last Parliament. Our first report after I became a member of that Committee was “Pension freedom guidance and advice”, which highlighted the critical importance of the pensions dashboard for explaining clearly to consumers what they can expect and to ensure that they do not lose out.

I am delighted by the fresh impetus that the Minister has given the pensions dashboard. Bringing together data from 64 million pension pots is ambitious but necessary. Providing a single accurate and comprehensive source of pensions knowledge will be immensely useful to help to facilitate financial capability and retirement planning. I appreciate how complex a process this is and I have no wish to break the back of any camel. However, when the system is up and running, I want the concept to be extended to clarify for consumers with savings products, a mortgage or debts the full extent of their financial position, thereby helping them to plan accordingly.

On guidance, I welcome what is outlined in the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill and the Government’s plans, which have broad cross-party support, to create a single financial guidance body. This, too, is in keeping with the recommendations of the Financial Inclusion Commission’s report, and it has been welcomed by Which?, Citizens Advice and Age UK.

A lot of great work is conducted at a community level—I particularly draw hon. Members’ attention to the valuable work conducted by the Horsham debt advice service—but the scale of this issue requires support on a national level. I have witnessed at first hand the excellent work carried out by the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise. They are all superb in their different ways, but I am certain that a single body will provide a more effective means by which to impart co-ordinated and consistent guidance.

I am at one with Citizens Advice in seeing three aspects of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill as particularly positive: the new body will support only advice that is free at the point of use and is independent; it has an objective of targeting help at those most in need; and it has a remit to support joined-up services and to fill gaps, not to duplicate current provision. I am only too aware of the other pressures on time in this Chamber, but I look forward to the Bill’s Second Reading in this place as soon as possible.

One of the Bill’s provisions begins the process of implementing the Conservative manifesto commitment to provide a debt respite scheme. Under the terms of the Bill, the Secretary of State must, within three months of the establishment of the body, seek its advice on the establishment of such a scheme. That will be an early test, and one to which a great number of us look forward to the SFGB and the Government rising.

This will be but one early example of the body’s strategic function to support and co-ordinate the development of a national strategy to improve financial capability. The SFGB will have to rise to the challenge outlined in research by Which?, which shows that only 36% of consumers use Government advisory bodies as an information source about their financial options.

Advertising and effective resourcing are key to ensuring high uptake, particularly among the groups who would benefit most from accessibility. Financial exclusion disproportionately affects lone parents, single pensioners and the long-term sick and disabled, and the active recruitment of those people requires the effective use of Government funding.

I would also like pensions guidance made much more widely available. Without wishing to be indelicate, Madam Deputy Speaker, I can say that the services of Pension Wise, determined by age as they were, are available to our excellent Minister, but not, alas, to his excellent Parliamentary Private Secretary and nor, surprisingly, to myself. The younger the age range, the more effective this service will be.

I finish where I began. The SFGB will have a role in advancing financial inclusion, as will the new financial inclusion policy forum, which will be co-chaired by the Minister and the Economic Secretary. Especially at a point when the interest rate cycle is turning, financial inclusion is of critical importance. I welcome the moves by the Government that are under way, but I welcome still more the further reforms that I look forward to the Minister progressing.

Guy Opperman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Guy Opperman)
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7 Dec 2017, 5:11 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to speak on behalf of the Government on the key issue of financial inclusion and the single financial guidance body, which we hope to bring before the House in the new year.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) for calling the debate and for the contribution he made as a step-in member of the Financial Inclusion Commission, following in the footsteps of my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd). It is fair to say at the outset that I am deeply grateful to the commission’s authors, and I have met many of them, including Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who has been of great assistance to me in the five months I have been doing this job. He is part of the reason why we have a financial inclusion Minister at this stage.

It is an exciting time to be doing this job, in circumstances where we have over 8.5 million people automatically enrolled in a workplace pension and where we have the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill coming forward—it completed its passage through the House of Lords on 23 November, and it will come to this House in the new year. We are driving forward the points raised by my hon. Friend, whether on the pensions dashboard or the mid-life MOT.

I am particularly passionate about the need to address people’s financial inclusion and capability. If I may briefly digress and talk about my personal circumstances, I co-founded a local community bank in my constituency, in the north-east. Our community bank was launched in November 2015 by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. It was specifically tasked with trying to compete payday lenders out of business, as asked for by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. It has a small staff and an incredible team of local volunteers. It is fully accredited, with significant amounts of money deposited, and it makes low-cost loans to those who need them most.

I am no longer personally involved, because my ministerial role prevents me from doing so, but I do, as a Minister, want it to be my mission to champion such locally led positive solutions and to evangelise for savings and pensions. I pay tribute to all the staff who have helped so much in that institution.

The second institution I think it fair to thank is the Lords Committee that prepared a very detailed report in the 2016-17 Parliament on tackling financial exclusion. That was responded to by the Government recently. I pay tribute to the work the Committee has done addressing this issue. I also pay tribute to the Money Advice Service, the Pensions Advisory Service, Pension Wise and all their staff, because we would not be where we are today without their efforts. However, more particularly, those three organisations are particularly enthused by the opportunities that lie ahead with the single financial guidance body to address the issue we are all so keen to tackle: financial inclusion.

We are working very closely across the Government on this. It is sometimes argued—not, I accept, under this Government in any way whatsoever—that we exist in silos and that Departments do not necessarily speak to each other. I am particularly encouraged that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Ministers in other Departments are equally committed to addressing financial inclusion, and that we have a forum coming together to be co-chaired by the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions. That shows that we are jointly addressing this key issue.

We need to provide people with access to the tools and services that they need to plan their lives and to avoid the unnecessary costs that come with financial exclusion. It is also important, however, that people are confident that the financial system itself will work for them—that there is responsible capitalism, that they will be protected from practices that are a threat to their finances and that they can make financial decisions themselves that are appropriate throughout their lives. The single financial guidance body will be the key addresser of financial capability in the United Kingdom. We realise that not enough people know how to manage their money effectively. This body will ensure that those people, especially those who are struggling, are easily able to access free and impartial guidance to help them to make more effective decisions about their pensions and their money and to seek advice on their debt.

There has been widespread support for the measures contained in the Bill, which passed on a cross-party basis in the House of Lords after significant amendment and improvement. It is a credit to the Houses of Parliament that a Bill that started out as 19 clauses emerged from the House of Lords with 31 clauses, considerably amended but with great support from individual peers on all sides, as was borne out by Lord Stevenson noting that the Bill was strengthened

“not because of any particular line or argument in a political or wider sense but because…as a result, the lives of people right around this country would be improved.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 21 November 2017; Vol. 787, c. 83.]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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7 Dec 2017, 5:17 p.m.

I am grateful to the Minister for quoting Lord Stevenson, another member of the Financial Inclusion Commission, but I would like to bring my hon. Friend back to the importance of ensuring that this financial advice reaches those who need it most. I referred, for example, to the disabled, lone parents and single pensioners. It will be absolutely critical, as we measure the success of this body going forward, that it does reach the hardest-to-reach people who need its support the most.

Guy Opperman Portrait Guy Opperman
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7 Dec 2017, 5:17 p.m.

It is interesting that my hon. Friend raises that point, because it was specifically addressed by their lordships in some detail. He will be aware that the new financial guidance body will simplify the existing public financial guidance landscape, making it easier for all people to access information and guidance.

Let me briefly address the statutory objectives and functions, because I think that that will reassure my hon. Friend on the point about those in society who are vulnerable. The single financial guidance body will have a number of statutory objectives: to improve the ability of people to make informed financial decisions; to support the provision of information, money and pensions guidance and debt advice in areas where it is specifically lacking; to ensure that information, guidance and debt advice is clear, cost-effective and not duplicated elsewhere; to ensure that information, guidance and debt advice is available to those most in need, particularly people in vulnerable circumstances; and to work with devolved authorities.

I stress that the chief executives of the three organisations—Michelle Cracknell, Jamey Johnson and Charles Counsell—all agree that bringing these organisations together and harnessing the product of the whole will enable specific opportunities to address this point. That is particularly appropriate given that one of the functions of the body is not only the protection of individuals as consumers but a strategic approach to ensure that this guidance is there. I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured that that is something that we massively support.

My hon. Friend raised financial education. The strategy behind the creation of the guidance body is to develop evidence that clearly shows which projects are successful and which are not. The Government want the body to prove what helps people to make better financial decisions throughout their lives, and then to deploy that understanding actively in its efforts in the area and share the knowledge as part of best practice.

The Government want the body to maximise the positive impact of financial education for children and young people, so that they are better prepared. We definitely see the guidance body taking forward the issue that my hon. Friend raises, to ensure that children are better prepared for financial challenges at any age. That strategic function is underpinned by the premise that, although Government bodies, industries, charitable functions and the voluntary sector are already doing excellent work, if they work together the impact will be that much greater.

I want to take the opportunity to celebrate the LifeSavers project, which I am pleased to say exists in my constituency. The organisation provides at primary level exactly the sort of thing that my hon. Friend described. The community bank of which I was a part is the provider of six LifeSavers programmes, which are supported by the Church of England and Virgin Money. There is literally a bank in the school, educating children about the importance of finance, loans, deposits and long-term saving, which is the way ahead.

A large number of schools are part of that project, and we are evaluating its impact. It is Treasury-supported to a limited degree. I have visited participating schools, such as Hexham East First School in my constituency, and the difference that the programme makes is off the charts. My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has provided a great deal more money for maths education, more maths teachers and support across the curriculum to ensure that that key point is addressed on an ongoing basis.

Briefly, I will mention other areas of the Bill that address some of the points that my hon. Friend raised. I believe that we all accept that problem debt is an issue for too many people. The Conservative party manifesto set out the commitment that the Government would adopt a breathing space scheme, to allow someone in serious problem debt to apply for legal protection from further interest charges and enforcement action for a period of up to six weeks. The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill will enable the Government to introduce such a scheme.

The breathing space scheme builds on the local work of organisations such as those that my hon. Friend mentioned in Horsham. It sounds as though they are approaching the matter in an interesting way. The Bill will build on the existing work of the Financial Conduct Authority, which has instituted rules. Also relevant is the fact that in October, the Treasury published a call for evidence on breathing space, and evidence is still being taken on the best and most appropriate way forward. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, officials and I have met the people behind the operation of the scheme in Scotland, which has already introduced a debt respite scheme and breathing space scheme.

The key to inclusion is access to engagement with savings and pensions. Surely, the game-changer on that over the past five years is the development of auto-enrolment, as part of a cross-party approach down many years. It is one of the unseen success stories of successive Governments, and it has engaged individual consumers and members of the public to an astonishing degree and reversed generations of decline in savings and pensions. The statistics bear some contemplation. We are about to approach the point at which 9 million people are auto-enrolled in a workplace pension. Hundreds of thousands of individual employers have signed up to the scheme, and it has not only totally stopped the rot in relation to pensions but reversed a long-term decline.

We are conducting an auto-enrolment review to assess where we are with the programme, and we will be considering a number of key areas. Those include the existing coverage, how to achieve the right balance between enabling as many people as possible to save and ensuring that it makes economic sense for them to be included, how we can improve engagement and how to strengthen the evidence base around contributions to support future decisions on contribution rates. I will report the findings to Parliament before the end of the year. We hope that the review will provide a clear sense of direction as part of the ongoing conversation.

I want briefly to talk about the pensions dashboard, which is an important part of the conversation about how we can better use technology. Just as the private sector has reformed the travel industry, insurance and so many other business, such that we now go online to access information, so we believe that the same will bring pensions into the digital age. The dashboard is an opportunity to give people access to their pensions data in a clear and simple form by bringing together savings information in one place online. It is an opportunity to give more people a sense of ownership and control over their pensions. This is a complex process, but I look forward to a massive meeting of stakeholders on Monday, to which hon. Members are most definitely invited. The good news is that the Department for Work and Pensions is taking this forward. We are utterly committed to the ongoing feasibility study and believe that by placing consumers at the heart of our approach, the Government, working closely of course with industry, regulators and other interested parties—notably, consumer organisations —can achieve the goal of such accessibility.

I want to make a brief final point about the mid-life MOT. It has struck me in this job that although we address individual issues, in relation to our health and our ongoing status quo as human beings—my GP regularly, and rightly, contacts me with ways to improve my health—we do not address our finances in a similar way. The concept of the mid-life MOT, as pioneered by John Cridland in his outstanding state pension review, published earlier this year, could enable us to better encourage and support people in preparing for later life and retirement in a holistic way. I encourage all private sector companies, through their human resources departments, to conduct mid-life MOTs— organisations such as Aviva are leading the way—and I certainly hope that the public sector will address those points as well. We believe that it is unquestionably a promising idea worth detailed scrutiny. Individual workers or employers could be provided with holistic advice and guidance to prepare for the gradual transition to retirement—whether at 45, 47 or 50—and it is something that the Government should be progressing.

It is often asked what brings us into politics. Social justice and financial inclusion are among the things that brought me into politics. When talk about the achievements of this Government and the coalition since my hon. Friend and my colleagues at my side—my hon. Friends the Members for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) and for North Devon (Peter Heaton-Jones)—first entered the House of Commons, and when we talk about extending free childcare, improving schools results, introducing the national living wage, creating 3 million jobs, reducing income inequality and record high household incomes, we should remember that they are not just statistics, but steps towards tackling injustice and spreading opportunity. I believe passionately that the Bill will enable us to tackle financial inclusion. I welcome the work of those who have taken us this far on the journey, but I also welcome the opportunity to report to the House on the progress we have made and the opportunities that lie ahead to tackle this fundamental issue of social justice.

Question put and agreed to.

Universal Credit Roll-out

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 24th October 2017

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Work and Pensions
Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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24 Oct 2017, 2:01 p.m.

I will say exactly what I am proposing very shortly.

If the Government’s position is that Opposition day debate motions should have no binding effect on the actions of the Government, it fundamentally alters the relationship and balance of power between the Executive and Parliament. It would mean that apart from votes on legislation and matters of confidence, the Government could ignore the decisions and will of Parliament. This is very dangerous ground, and the situation needs to be seen in the context of the blatant power grab by the Executive that we witnessed on Second Reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill last month.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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24 Oct 2017, 2:02 p.m.

For the hon. Lady to accuse the Government in such a way is to suggest that there has been a change from precedent, but votes on Supply days have never been binding on the Government. That is a clear precedent going back many years, and the position was entrenched by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie Abrahams
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24 Oct 2017, 2:02 p.m.

The point is that we need an urgent response to this really important issue. We are calling for a clear set of proposals from the Government that will reflect the will of the House and pause universal credit roll-out while the issues that I raised—and many more that I did not have time to raise—are fixed.

Break in Debate

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds
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24 Oct 2017, 2:28 p.m.

It is a system that is replacing a deeply flawed system and striving to face up head-on to endemic problems that we have had for decades and that were left in the “too difficult to deal with” tray—an old system, where complexity and bureaucracy had so often served to stifle the independence, limit the choice and constrain the outlook of its claimants.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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24 Oct 2017, 2:28 p.m.

Would my hon. Friend agree that, unlike the disaster that was the tax credit roll-out in 2003, the Minister and the Government had built into this process a slow roll-out, and the Minister has proved himself adaptable on the landlord portal and on the advances and the ever-increasing speed with which these payments are being made?

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds
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24 Oct 2017, 2:29 p.m.

My hon. Friend is quite right. We will not remake those mistakes of the past, and that is why this is such a careful and gradual process.

Break in Debate

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
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24 Oct 2017, 3:39 p.m.

If I have time, I will make one specific point on that.

Other impacts have emerged as the Government cut the funding for DWP staff, which adds to waiting time and errors; many Members will have seen the article in The Independent from a DWP worker who deals with benefits. Then we saw the cuts to in-work support and the cuts to support for third and subsequent children. Those of us who live in high-rent areas, such as west London, where a small family flat costs about three quarters of an average worker’s take home pay, have seen no proper adjustment of the local housing allowance.

In the face of all this evidence, so clearly set out last week by so many MPs on both sides of this House, the Government party refused to vote, and three parliamentary days later the Government have still made no statement to the House in response to the many important and excellent points made in the debate calling for a pause. The Leader of the House committed the Government to respond to the debate and the vote. There is no reason why the Secretary of State or a Minister could not have come to this House before now, at least with an initial response, and today the Minister did not use the opportunity he had to respond to the vote last week. The Government’s actions—or, rather, lack of them—hold in contempt not only Parliament, but those already unable to feed themselves or their children, those who are facing eviction, those who have lost their jobs and, overall, those who have lost their dignity and hope for the future.

Let me give an example from my casework to show why the Government need to freeze or put a pause on the roll-out of UC. I have encountered two people, at different times, whose UC was stopped when employers paid them at the end of the outgoing month, because of the way the weekend or the bank holiday fell, and the DWP stopped their claim because it told them they had been paid double that month and so were not entitled to any UC. This went on for weeks and weeks, with them having no money to pay the rent and the childcare places being lost, and they were put at risk of losing their jobs. If a UC claim is terminated by the DWP, even because of a mistake by the DWP, it cannot be reopened, and the claimant is required to make a fresh claim and to use a new email address—all the journal is lost.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) has given the House several suggestions for changes and improvements that could be made to the UC system, including reducing the six-week wait, reinstating the limited capability for work element for disabled people, assessing self-employed people on their annual income, reinstating the level of work allowances and reducing the taper rates. Those are just some of the improvements that could be made and that the Minister could be considering. He could have made some initial comment on them just now, but he did not do so. The system needs to be properly resourced and to have adequate staffing and adequate IT. Local authorities and other landlords need to have access to claim data. By saying that they want the system to work, the Government are, in effect, admitting there is a problem. They need to do more than just want the system to work; we need to know when they will make it work.

Mr Speaker, after last week’s debate, you said:

“This place, and what we do here, matters very much.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2017; Vol. 629, c. 957.]

I agree with you, and so do my constituents.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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24 Oct 2017, 3:40 p.m.

I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr Speaker; I am conscious that I spoke in the recent debate on the Government’s response to Supply day debates and in the debate last week on universal credit. I recognise that in this place repetition is not frowned on, and that hesitation and deviation are positively encouraged in some quarters, but I shall do my utmost not to try the House’s patience.

With the greatest of respect to the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), I question the wording of the motion, which asks us to debate the Government’s response to

“the decision of the House”

on universal credit. The House knows what the hon. Lady means—I know what she means—and I am not interested in silly semantic arguments, but this does get to the core of the matter. The Commons expressed a view, as you wisely said in response to the points of order after last week’s debate, Mr Speaker. It gave its advice to the Government on the roll-out of universal credit. However, the House cannot, on the basis of an Opposition day non-legislative motion for debate, take a decision on a matter of Government policy.

As we discussed at length in the previous debate under Standing Order No. 24, and as I believe was agreed among Government and Opposition Members, declamatory resolutions proposed for Opposition day debates are not and cannot be binding on the Government. That constitutional convention was entrenched by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the principle of which was supported in the Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos in 2010. When that Act was last debated, three years ago yesterday, the Opposition spokesman at the time, the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), spoke in its favour and said that the Labour party continued to support it.

There is no constitutional requirement for the Government to respond to resolutions of the nature we are discussing if that is what the Opposition choose to table for Supply day debates. If the Government choose to respond, they have to determine when and exactly how, particularly if there are fiscal consequences to any actions they determine. Part of the role of the House is to hold the Government to account, so I do not think that last week’s debate was in any way fruitless or a waste of time. In the immediate term, the Government were held to account through the Secretary of State’s responding to 17 interventions. By my count, in a much shorter speech this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment replied to 11 interventions. He was held to account by this House.

I have absolutely no doubt that Labour’s talented Front-Bench spokespersons will do their utmost and use all their wiles to ensure that the Government’s decisions on universal credit are drawn to the electorate’s attention. Conservative Members are comfortable with the roll-out, the time we are taking and the way we are presenting it to the country. Ultimately, the electorate will decide. They are seeing the Opposition’s view and the Government’s view, and that is one role of the House.

I am comfortable with the position that our Government are taking in implementing the changes. That is partly because when I talk to staff at my local jobcentre, expecting the usual litany of failure that accompanies IT projects from all Governments, I hear enthusiasm and positivity about the universal credit system and how responsive it is. I am pleased that the Government have already proved themselves similarly responsive, with 50% of new claimants now securing advances, the new landlord portal and the consistent improvement in the time taken to make payments. There may be other measures that the Government can take to bolster the success of the system, but to my mind they would be wholly wrong to pause the roll-out of a system that reduces complexity, increases flexibility and improves employment outcomes for the recipients.

Helen Goodman
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24 Oct 2017, 3:43 p.m.

Conservative Members have talked a lot about improving work incentives. I shall not go over the history, but I have constituents who say things such as:

“My own personal position is that of a single parent carer to my disabled child. I can’t work as he has very high and complex needs… Quite frankly the rollout of universal credit is terrifying”—

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Oct 2017, 3:43 p.m.

Order. The hon. Lady’s eloquence is equalled only by her length. Interventions must be brief.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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24 Oct 2017, 3:44 p.m.

The hon. Lady is always eloquent, and I take seriously the issue she has raised. I urge her to draw that to the attention of Ministers. I cannot handle specific issues in her constituency, but as I conclude I can describe the generality of employment under this Government. We previously debated universal credit on the day on which the new employment figures came out.

Heidi Allen
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24 Oct 2017, 3:44 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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24 Oct 2017, 3:44 p.m.

If my hon. Friend does not mind, I will not.

I assume that it was only because of the timing of the release of those employment statistics that the Opposition Front-Bench team were unable to weave them too strongly into their speeches on the day. They did not welcome the 52,000 increase in employment on the previous quarter; they did not welcome the 215,000 increase in employment on the previous year; and they did not welcome the fact that unemployment is at the lowest rate since 1975. [Interruption.] Obviously, they did not have time. There is evidence that universal credit is helping this success story. I urge the Government to continue to look creatively at how the system can work better, but under no circumstances to halt the roll-out.

Laura Smith (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

24 Oct 2017, 3:45 p.m.

Last week, I shared with the House my own experience of benefit delay as a single parent when I was working as a teacher. We all sat and listened as Members from across the House voiced their concerns—and their constituents’ concerns—about the impact of universal credit. We also heard some horror stories—only they were not stories; they were accounts of ordinary working people living through the so-called reforms that this Government have insisted on pushing through. The concerns raised on the Opposition Benches were echoed by Gingerbread, Citizens Advice, Crisis and—indeed—some Members on the Government Benches.

Surely the Government do not plan to ignore the decision made by this House and to carry on regardless? The six-week wait is forcing people into further debt. My constituency of Crewe has been identified as one of the most indebted places in the country, with almost 4,000 children living in poverty. My constituents literally cannot afford to be subjected to this punitive programme.

Will the Government admit that the six-week wait is nothing more than a penny-pinching exercise? How dare they patronise us with their excuses? Do they really expect me to explain to my constituents that the Government’s six-week wait is there to teach them how to manage their finances better? We keep hearing the stock defence that universal credit is getting more people into work. What type of work is that—secure work, work that pays a real living wage? We all know what lies behind those unemployment figures—poverty pay and precarious work. The truth is simply that this Government’s policies are hurting ordinary working families, hurting the poorest and hurting the most vulnerable in our society.

We were told that this policy would “make work pay”, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that a further 3 million working families will be made on average £2,500 a year worse off. Food bank referrals have increased by more than double the national average in areas where universal credit has been fully rolled out.

The Government have finally listened to the Labour party and stopped ripping off constituents with their premium charge helpline. They now need to listen to the calls of charities and councils and immediately pause and fix the roll-out of universal credit, before more people are pushed into debt, hunger and homelessness. A pause would stop the rapid increase in the number being brought under their programme. I ask the Secretary of State to outline his response to the many concerns that have been brought to his attention again today. This is the Government’s last chance to show that they do have some heart, that they can see sense and that they respect the decisions made by this House; otherwise, they risk consigning themselves to the dustbin of history as a Government who lack compassion, competence and credibility in equal measure.

Universal Credit Roll-out

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2017

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab)
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18 Oct 2017, 4:29 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in today’s important debate.

I know that many Members on both sides of the House share my concerns, but they are also shared by many outside this House. They are shared by organisations at the forefront of supporting people through difficult periods and supporting the most vulnerable in our society, such as Community Housing Cymru, Citizens Advice, Shelter, the Child Poverty Action Group and the Trussell Trust—to name but a few.

Those organisations know at first hand how a system is meant to work and when something is not working, because they are generally the ones picking up the pieces when people’s lives are turned upside down by debt and anxiety, caused at this time by problems with the roll-out of universal credit.

We have heard and will continue to hear throughout the debate evidence that the roll-out causes significant hardship and undue stress. The Government must listen to the genuine concerns from across the country to prevent further hardship. Those concerns do not constitute negativity and scaremongering, as some Conservative Members suggest, but reflect reality.

Clearly, the first thing that needs reconsideration is the six-week waiting period. In most circumstances, people do not have savings or money set aside to cover day-to-day living expenses during that time. Advance payments are not a solution for claimants who cannot wait a minimum of six weeks for their first payment, as they cover only part of the claim and must be repaid through a deduction from future payments. In most circumstances, an advance payment will not cover the costs of a tenant’s rent, leading to arrears, claimants needing to use food banks, and to increasing debt and poverty.

I understand from some housing providers that they often receive conflicting messages from DWP staff while those staff are gaining the full knowledge and skills to administer the new system. A pause and period of reflection would allow the Government to address issues with the helpline, and offer training and support to DWP staff to ensure consistency of information for both tenant and landlord.

With the proposed roll-out being accelerated significantly from this month, it stands to reason that the problems identified so far will be magnified, leading to thousands of families facing an uncertain time in the run-up to Christmas and well into the new year. If the system is creaking now, rolling out at the proposed pace will make matters a lot worse.

In my view and that of many colleagues in this place and outside, the Government need urgently to reconsider the roll-out to address the very real concerns, undue hardship and anxiety that the policy is causing and look at how it can be improved.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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18 Oct 2017, 4:34 p.m.

I hope that the Minister and my other hon. Friends will bear with me if I quote the National Audit Office’s withering analysis of Government failure:

“the systems do not work as intended, causing problems for claimants, employers and the Department… there were serious problems with system performance… which affected stability; speed; and availability.”

The roll-out caused massive payment problems and huge knock-on impacts throughout the system. The NAO’s words were an indictment of colossal failure. My hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will be relieved to hear that the report was written in 2003, when the introduction of the tax credit regime by the Labour Administration gave us a perfect example of how not to do it.

I support this Administration’s purposeful roll-out of universal credit, which allows time to test, learn and rectify. No one can genuinely accuse the Government of rushing headlong into a scheme that is taking a decade to roll out.

When I speak to people in my local Jobcentre Plus, I hear genuine enthusiasm for universal credit, and recognition that the agile system is improving with every roll-out and becoming more user-friendly.

Let us not forget the complaints from hon. Members of all parties about the clunkiness and adverse consequences—still much in evidence around the country—of the former system. Let us not forget its complexities, with three different providers and six different benefits; the 16-hour rule; the lack of flexibility when people start what may be a short-term job, but could prove a valuable stepping stone to a long-term career.

At its most basic, universal credit helps individuals into work, allowing them to keep more of the income that they earn. Those on UC are more likely to enter the workplace within six months than their peers with the same qualifications and characteristics on JSA. Universal credit is about not just getting people into work, but what happens when they are there.

I pay tribute to the shadow Secretary of State for remaining here throughout the debate. She quoted from a report by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions. However, she did not choose to quote from its report on in-work progression, which made it clear that universal credit has

“the potential to be the most significant welfare reform since 1948… It promises to break the cycle of people stuck in low pay, low prospects employment.”

All that is not to say that the system is perfect. Of course, there will be issues, some heartrending, that need to be resolved. However, that is true of every benefits system, and certainly true of the predecessor that universal credit replaces. The difference is that universal credit, as well as being right in principle, has proved itself adaptable and responsive: 50% of new claimants securing advances; the new landlord portal referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith); and the consistent improvement in the time it takes to make payments. They are all examples of how the system is adapting. It is a system worth working with.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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18 Oct 2017, 4:35 p.m.

I know I have not been here for long, but I am having difficulty believing my ears when I hear some of the stories from my hon. Friends who have already had this system rolled out in their constituencies. I am astounded by what I hear from some on the Government Benches and appalled when they say it is those of us on the Opposition Benches who are scaremongering. It leaves me to genuinely wonder what colour the sky is in their world. But I stand here thankful to represent my constituents, and to stand up for a better Gower and a better Wales for our children to grow up in.

I took a bit of a bashing on Twitter this week, because I said the Government had shown a lack of empathy when it came to universal credit. As a former teacher, I love to learn and I am happy to be proved wrong, so I call on the Government to show empathy now. This is a chance for the Government to show that they have listened to the serious concerns that many Members have raised today. I hope they will show empathy, so that my constituents, who will have universal credit rolled out just before Christmas, will not have this hanging over their heads during the holidays. Who will my constituents turn to when they need to apply for their “loan” and the offices that provide support are closed? How will the DWP staff cope in that short period of time with such requests in addition to their normal duties?

I already have working people coming to my constituency office helpless and looking for a referral to the food bank to feed their children. What will it be like at Christmas when council figures estimate that people in work in Swansea will be £42 a week worse off? All I ask is that the Government show some empathy to the parents who need to juggle childcare and work as they try to provide the best they can for their children and families. Show empathy and give a more compassionate start date to the roll-out of universal credit in Gower and Swansea.

All the evidence shows that the roll-out of universal credit will see in-work poverty soar. There is a wealth of evidence from across the country that where universal credit has been introduced evictions are up, the use of food banks is up and the number of people in in-work poverty is up. Significant changes are needed. I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black). She is right when she says that those of us on the Opposition Benches—see how many of us are here—are not making it up. The Government need to consider a pause.

Intergenerational Fairness

(1st reading: House of Commons)
Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 28th February 2017

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con)
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It is a real pleasure to follow the widely respected and thoughtful comments of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field). Sometimes they are difficult for the Government and sometimes they are difficult for the Opposition, but we should always take heed of his comments and listen to them very carefully.

This debate nearly passed me by until I saw a quote in the report stating:

“An economy that is skewed towards baby boomers and against millennials”.

That panicked me. We all have our own calling into politics. I went to a school that was bottom of the league tables in Kidderminster and my father died at an early age. Many of my friends did not fulfil their potential. I was always driven by the thought that, given the right opportunity, everybody can be successful if equipped with the right skills, sometimes the right luck, the right support and the right direction. All too many people—very, very good friends of mine—did not take that path and have missed out. That is bad for them, bad for the economy and bad for society.

I looked at that quote and I worried, because to me it was one versus the other, rather than the core principle that we have a duty to do our very best by everybody. I know a lot of people will focus their comments on the triple lock—whether it is right, whether we are doing too much for pensioners and whether we should be doing it in a different way. I would just gently say, because I wish to focus my comments on the younger generation, that we all welcomed the triple lock. There had been a long time when perhaps we had underserved those who had worked hard all their lives. I just urge caution. Once people get to pension age, they have limited opportunities through which to change their circumstances. They have either fulfilled their potential or there is not really much more opportunity to do so. They have reached the finish line that the right hon. Member for Birkenhead talked about. We have to respect the fact that their incomes are predominantly fixed, and we have to do our best by them.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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There is a lot in the report that I would recommend to my hon. Friend, but does he share my slight concern that we must not allow our long-term thoughts on pensions to be coloured by a particular cohort of pensioners retiring right now? In 10 or 15 years’ time, defined benefit schemes will have gone and people may be in a much worse position than those retiring this year or in the next few years.

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I am very grateful for the fact that we have a fantastic Pensions Minister who will be responding to the debate and who will no doubt comment in detail on that point.

The broader point, as I turn to the opportunities for younger people, is that we all collectively—the Government and the Opposition—have a responsibility to recognise that we have a habit of spending more money than we get in as tax revenue. Since the second world war, I think there have been only six years where the Government of the day have spent less money than they have collected. What that really means in plain English is that we, as the generations from most of those years, wish to have more than we can afford and we would like our children, or maybe our children’s children, to pay for it. This applies to all Governments, except in those six years where, for whatever reason, the Government of the day were able to collect in more tax revenue than they spent. We have a moral duty and responsibility to future generations not always to take that easy decision.

I was doing a radio interview yesterday on a relatively contentious issue involving possible additional Government spending, and another MP said, “Well, if I was the Minister, I’d have taken the hit.” The key point was that it was not they who would have taken the hit; it was everybody. Given that we already spend more money than we collect, what they were saying was, “I’d pass that one on to the next generation as well.” We all know that. We would all like to balance the books immediately, but we also all have a long list of personal priorities we would like to spend money on—our inboxes are full of helpful requests from residents for where we could spend more money. Many of those are very important—a balance always needs to be struck—but I gently remind the House not to lose sight of the fact that if we wish to give the best opportunities to future generations, we must not saddle them with too much of our own overspending.

I am inherently a very positive person—I believe that if we equip people and give them the opportunity, they will seize it with both hands and make a huge success of it—so I am greatly encouraged that our Government have delivered 1.8 million more good or outstanding school places. As someone who went to a school at the bottom of the league tables, I understand the importance of equipping people with the right skills. In my constituency and across Swindon, we have had a difficult Ofsted report recently. We have fantastic teachers, headteachers and governors all trying their best in Swindon and we have secured extra funding for our schools, but we are not quite there yet.

We all—the Government, MPs, the council, the schools collectively, the parents—have to look at what more can be done. I am encouraged that the schools Minister recently visited two of my local schools, Nova and Swindon Academy, both of which are transforming the opportunities for their children, having come from what not so long ago were very poor ratings. Frankly, they were failing the children who were relying on them to equip them for the future, but both have transformed their ratings through strong leadership, and I am delighted that yesterday Ofsted confirmed that Nova had moved to “good” in all categories. I pay tribute to Mr Barton, the headteacher, and all his staff who have worked incredibly hard to achieve that. Schools are the fundamental building block for equipping young people in life.

I am also a huge fan of the National Citizen Service, a new initiative giving young adults real, tangible life skills, and every summer, without fail, I visit every stage of the three to four-week programme. It takes a random collection of young people—the activities cost about £1,500—and sends them away for a week to learn teambuilding skills. They then come back, form teams and choose a charity. They learn about that charity, organise entrepreneurial and fundraising activities, volunteer for the charity to see it at first hand, learn presentation skills, haggling, engaging and so on, and at the end, they graduate as NCS students. There is an incredible transformation in all those young adults, who arrive well educated by their schools but perhaps not quite ready for the workplace. I ran my own business for 10 years and employed a lot of young people and I am encouraged to see the huge difference in those young adults. They take the time in their summer holiday, when it is tempting to do other less-constructive things, to go and engage. In doing so, they give themselves the best opportunity when entering the workplace.

University numbers continue to increase, but the Government have rightly put a huge emphasis on apprenticeships. For generations, Governments and Opposition parties got into an arms race on students going to university. Every general election, we would hear, “We sent 25%.”, “Well, we’d send 30%.”, “We’d do a third.”, “We’d do 45%.”, “We’ll break 50%.”. Everybody has a talent. David Beckham is not renowned for being academically gifted, but he has a gift that has earned him more money in a week than the majority of people in society will ever earn, and that was because somebody recognised his skill and allowed him to develop it.

We all have a talent. Every time I failed to make it on to a sports team, I wondered whether I did—perhaps that is why I am here—but everyone has a talent, and apprenticeships rightly recognise that. Workplace learning provides people with real, tangible skills and a fantastic opportunity to secure a long-term career with good career prospects. That is also vital for our growing economy, particularly where we have skills gaps.

In the last Parliament, we had a commitment to 2 million apprentices, which we have met, and in this Parliament we have rightly identified an even more ambitious target. It will be tough to get there, but it is right to have such challenging targets. I have spent, as I am sure have all hon. Members, a lot of time meeting the young apprentices who are doing things that I have absolutely no idea about—advanced engineering, all sorts of complex things with computers. They are on the first rung on the ladder towards their brilliant careers. They will all go on to huge success.

Across the economy, this Government have now delivered record employment—2.7 million more people are in work than when we came to office in 2010. That is not just in London or the south-east, as has sometimes been seen in previous strong economic performances; it is in every single region of the country. In my town of Swindon, 8,400 more people are in work, which is greater than the number who currently go on a weekly basis to see Swindon Town bravely fighting the relegation battle. Thankfully, with the victory at the weekend, we have got a bit closer to achieving the objective.

There are now 865,000 fewer workless households, and youth unemployment is at its lowest since 2005. In Swindon—I know that people are keen to know how well we are doing—youth unemployment is down by 69.2% since 2010, which is a fantastic achievement. The Government have rightly introduced the national living wage so that we are looking at a wage of about £9-plus by 2020. That will help 6 million of the lowest earners to have a pay rise and to share in the proceeds of the strong economic growth that we have delivered. The increases in the personal tax threshold have taken the 3.2 million lowest earners out of paying any income tax at all, and we are continuing to raise that threshold to £12,500, after which it will be index linked, making sure that the lowest earners will never return to the point of having to pay income tax again.

Autumn Statement Distributional Analysis, Universal Credit and ESA

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 16th November 2016

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House notes with concern the £3.4 billion reductions to the work allowance element of universal credit and the £1.4 billion reductions to employment and support allowance; calls on the Government to reverse those reductions; and further calls on the Government to reintroduce detailed distributional analysis for the Autumn Statement and all further Financial Statements, as was done between 2010 and 2015.

On a solemn note, I wish to send my condolences to the family and friends of Debbie Jolly. Some Members may have known Debbie, who was a disability campaigner. Over the years, she provided briefings for many Members of the House of Commons and, through Disabled People Against Cuts, was involved in many of the various lobbies of Parliament. She passed away last week, and I would like to send our condolences to her family and all her friends. We all hoped she would survive long enough at least to see this debate. I pay tribute to her for the work she did.

I want to explain the genesis of the motion that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends have tabled for today’s debate. As we all know, the autumn statement is a week today. Traditionally, we would have held an Opposition day debate and used it to have a wide-ranging debate, second-guessing and commenting on what we predicted would be contained in the autumn statement.

This year, we want to try something different. We want to break radically with that tradition, because next week could be the last chance to head off what is shaping up to be quite a harmful disaster for many low earners and many vulnerable people in our society. For our debates today, we have taken two significant issues that are contained in the Budget plans announced earlier this year by the Chancellor’s predecessor, and which the new Chancellor has the ability and opportunity to intervene upon and, we hope, reverse. The first is the plan to cut the work allowance element of universal credit and employment and support allowance, and for the later debate we have chosen the issue of funding social care.

We believe that the Chancellor, by withdrawing the proposed cuts to ESA and universal credit, would dramatically beneficially impact upon the lives of many, many of our fellow citizens, who are, yes, low earners, but many of whom, through their disability, are also often the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. We want to see today and, yes, over the next week, whether we can assemble across the House a coalition of pressure that can decisively influence the Chancellor to think again.

I welcome the Back-Bench debate that has been secured for tomorrow, which I believe will contribute to forming that coalition; I certainly believe and hope that we can succeed in doing so. So the appeal to hon. Members today and in the coming week is to do all we can to prevail upon the Chancellor to halt the policy of cuts to universal credit and ESA contained in the Budget introduced by the former Chancellor, which are planned to come into effect on 1 April.

Before I come to the grounds for making this appeal to the Chancellor, it is important to understand the origins of the proposals, and this goes to the heart of the autumn statement process. I believe their origins lie in the mistake by the last Chancellor of imposing a fiscal framework on his colleagues that was simply impractical, given the economic circumstances that we were facing, and certainly what we are about to face. If the fiscal framework is wrongly set and, importantly, if it is so inflexible that it cannot reflect the realities and challenges of the economy, decisions on both tax and spending equally fail to reflect the economic realities and meet the new economic priorities. I believe that in this instance, the fiscal framework imposed by the former Chancellor was so inflexible, and unworkable in the end, that it totally failed to meet the economic targets he set for it. It is also vital to understand that the former Chancellor’s fiscal framework imposed on his colleagues’ Departments unrealistic constraints that are undermining their ability to achieve their own policy goals.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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The reality is that the fiscal framework did see a significant reduction in the annual deficit. That is a good thing for this country. I have not seen anything from Labour Members to suggest that they would have been able to do anything like that.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell
- Hansard - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman clearly has not been listening. We introduced a fiscal credibility target, which would have built in the flexibility that we need—and actually, which his colleagues would have benefited from as they sought to deliver the goals set out in the manifesto upon which they were elected. That is the critical problem—that this fiscal target has become unworkable. Next week, most probably, we will see that not only will it be reset, but large elements of it will be scrapped; and some of those political disputes within the Government will be seen to have been completely unnecessary if only the Chancellor, at that stage, had listened not just to us, but to some of his own colleagues.

On the Government’s own economic metrics, the fiscal framework has failed. I remind the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) that the former Chancellor’s target was to eliminate the deficit by 2015. The deficit remained at over £45 billion in the first six months of this financial year. I remind the House that his target was to reduce the debt. The debt now stands at £1.7 trillion and has increased over the past six years, according to the latest estimate, by £740 billion. I believe that the biggest failure was to ignore the needs of the real economy and use the fiscal framework to constrain investment. The failure to invest on the scale needed to modernise our economy resulted in stagnating productivity.

In the face of all the evidence that the fiscal framework was not working and not achieving its target, the decision to set a target for the framework not just to eliminate the deficit, but to produce a multibillion-pound surplus by 2019-20 demonstrated to many of us how far the former Chancellor’s politics was overriding sound economics. The result of his setting targets even more removed from reality was that he imposed on his own colleagues the task of scrambling round to find a scale of cuts that, in many instances, undermined what chance they had to implement the policies on which they were elected and their long-standing ambitions, some of which could have secured cross-party support.

That was no more evident than at the Department for Work and Pensions. For the Treasury to demand cuts to universal credit that would take, on average, £2,100 out of the incomes of people who were doing all that was asked of them—working all they could to come off benefits, bringing up their families, contributing to society—flew in the face of all that the universal credit system was meant to be about. The same can be said of the cuts of nearly £30 a week to employment and support allowance. That is an extremely significant cut to the incomes of disabled people who are also doing all that has been asked of them—seeking work to lift them off benefits, and overcoming their disabilities and conditions.

Break in Debate

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I fundamentally agree. There is a £36 billion tax gap, so let us fix that hole. I listened to the Minister talk earlier about the challenges the Government face in fixing the deficit. What they fail to recognise is the interaction between fiscal and monetary policy. It is the richest who have benefited most from quantitative easing. We should have had a fiscal stimulus package. That would have driven investment and productivity into the economy, and got more people back into work. That is what we should be doing.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard -

This is not the first time I have heard the hon. Gentleman refer to the great fiscal reflation he is planning. I welcome the fact that in the same speech he is also talking about the problems with inflation, but is that not a contradiction in terms?

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford
- Hansard - - Excerpts

It most certainly is not. The reason for the rise in inflation—to something between 2% and 3% next year, according to commentators—is, quite simply, that the pound has crashed, and the reason the pound has crashed is that investors do not have confidence in the UK economy, and who caused that? It is a direct consequence of Brexit, through the referendum, which was the misjudgment of the previous Prime Minister.

Supported Housing: Benefit

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 20th July 2016

(4 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Damian Green Portrait Damian Green
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I will, as the right hon. Gentleman would expect as an experienced denizen of this Dispatch Box on this subject, come to that in the course of my speech. This is, as I have said, a complex matter and it is important to get it right.

Let me start by setting out the principles on which I will operate in this area.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard -

It is a great pleasure to welcome my right hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box. He has mentioned David Orr and there are other organisations that have concerns and that take different views on this subject. The Government have been in very active dialogue. Will my right hon. Friend commit to maintaining that dialogue as he goes through the evidence behind this policy?

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Absolutely, I will. I am coming up, in a minute, to the six-day anniversary of my occupation of this post, so I apologise if I have not taken all the representations in person yet, but my Ministers and I are certainly trying very hard to do so.

As everyone on both sides of the House knows, the supported housing sector provides important support to a diverse range of groups and individuals across the country. It supports those with learning difficulties, allowing them to live as independently as possible; it provides a safe refuge for those escaping domestic violence; it helps ex-offenders make a successful transition back into mainstream society; and it supports those who have experienced homelessness. The sector helps to transform lives and it allows people to live as independently as possible, to move into work where possible, which is hugely important, and to be safe, healthy and happy. It is a very important sector.

As constituency Members, we all have examples of that kind of support being provided. I have visited the Porchlight project in my constituency, which helps vulnerable and isolated people get support with housing, mental health issues, education and employment. Vital work is done by this sector. From my previous experience in government, I have seen the value of the sector in the criminal justice system. A stable and supportive environment can be the key to reducing reoffending. For example, Stonham BASS provides accommodation for people who have been bailed by the courts or released on home detention curfew after they have served a prison sentence. The service reduces unnecessary imprisonment and the negative effects that it has on family life, employment and housing, and so helps to deter people from reoffending.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 11th July 2016

(4 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Shailesh Vara Portrait Mr Vara
- Hansard - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. We are committed to transparency and openness, and, when opportunity allows, to putting them into place in legislation.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard -

I congratulate the Minister on the successful roll-out of auto-enrolment. What more could be done to help the self-employed to engage in the process?

Shailesh Vara Portrait Mr Vara
- Hansard - - Excerpts

We are working very closely with the Pensions Regulator to ensure the whole programme of auto-enrolment is easily understood, in particular for self-employed people and those who have one or two employees, so that the rules are in very clear easy-to-use language on the website and in offline literature and any other offline facilities.

Universal Credit (Children)

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 10th May 2016

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
- Hansard - - Excerpts

No, I do not think that that is fair. There is now a large and growing group of people who are significantly worse off than they would have been because they have the misfortune of being in an area where universal credit is paid instead of tax credits. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to that.

When the universal credit project started in 2011, we were told that it would be completed in six years. Today, five years later, we are being told that it will be completed in another six years, by 2022. Five years into this initiative, its expected completion has been delayed by five years. We are no nearer the end now than we were told we were five years ago.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard -

The right hon. Gentleman was generous in his support of the principle of the scheme. Surely he must accept that it is better to get it right. A steady, phased implementation is the right way to ensure that the benefits to which he referred are properly implemented across the country.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Of course that is right. There should have been a sensible timetable and plan from the start. It was pointed out to Ministers that the original plan was unrealistic, but unfortunately they took no notice of that.

It is not just the timetable that has changed, however, but the substance. What is being implemented is now significantly different from what it was originally going to be. A report published last week by the Resolution Foundation has made that very clear; I will refer to that report a number of times in my speech, but at this point I will quote one observation from its executive summary, which says that

“the latest series of cuts—announced at last year’s Summer Budget—risk leaving UC as little more than a vehicle for rationalising benefit administration and cutting costs to the Exchequer.”

That is at the heart of this debate. Universal credit is now set to be a pale shadow of what Ministers initially announced. The losers, both from the cuts made to the original proposals and from flaws in the original design that have never satisfactorily been addressed, will above all be the nation’s children.

The Resolution Foundation has explained the impact of the £3 billion cut announced last summer:

“As initially designed, UC gave broad parity with the current tax credit system…Now, UC will…be less generous than the tax credit system for working families.”

That is what gives rise to the anomaly and unfairness to which my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) drew our attention.

Break in Debate

Peter Heaton-Jones
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I am glad the hon. Gentleman mentions the IFS, because it also said that

“universal credit should make the system easier to understand, ease transitions into and out of work, and largely get rid of the most extreme disincentives to work or to earn more created by the current system.”

The IFS seems to quite like the introduction of universal credit, which has to be looked at in the round. The Government are introducing a whole package of measures. I listed some of them. The growing economy and rising employment also help.

The other issue that is not taken into account when we consider universal credit is what is sometimes referred to as the dynamic impact—a horrible bit of jargon—of universal credit. This seeks to take into account changes in individual behaviours in response to the introduction of universal credit. It is quite difficult to analyse but it means improved opportunities for people to move from welfare into work, which changes people’s behaviours. This is a vital point. Even though it is in its early stages of introduction, as pointed out already, there is significant evidence that universal credit is doing well and succeeding at ensuring that more people move off welfare and into work. The latest figures show that for every 100 people who found work under the old jobseeker’s allowance system, about 113 universal credit claimants move into a job. What matters, however, is not just the fact of moving into a job but the quality of the job and the pay, and people are actively looking to increase their hours and their earnings as well.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard -

Does my hon. Friend, like me, welcome the emphasis on in-work progression? The story does not end when someone happily gets into a role. It matters also that they are encouraged through Jobcentre Plus to improve their hours and their standing in the firm and get paid more over time.

Peter Heaton-Jones
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. That is important, and the latest figures show that 86% of claimants on universal credit are actively looking to increase their hours, which compares to 38% under JSA, which is a significant difference. People are actively looking to increase their earnings as well, which goes to the heart of his point. Some 77% of those on universal credit are actively looking to increase their earnings, compared to 51% on JSA. That is a really important part of the universal credit package.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 20th July 2015

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Thank you for calling me to speak in this important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall start by focusing on one or two comments that Members made earlier and then return to a central issue—getting those with disabilities back into work.

The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field) said that 3 million strivers will be hammered. I am a great fan of his—he is the Chairman of the Select Committee of which I am a member, and I am sorry he is not in the Chamber to hear this—but his gloom tonight was focused on two things. The first is the big problem of unity and what approach to take to welfare and work within his own party. The second is an underlying belief that the only way to help the poor is ultimately to increase benefits from taxpayers, and that the only way out of poverty is to grow a tax credits bill that is already, at £30 billion a year, far greater than in the similar populations of France or Germany, and is, in the words of the former Chancellor, previously the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West,

“subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended”

when it was first introduced by the Government of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead.

The reason the right hon. Gentleman and his party are discombobulated on the issue is that they rightly feared a reduction in benefits before an increase in wages and did not expect that my party, the party of compassionate conservatism, would implement precisely that: a national living wage considerably above that mooted by their former leader, plus an expansion of the tax-free allowance that will take the amount one can earn without paying income tax to almost double by 2020 the £6,500 allowance of 2010. They know that higher wages, lower tax and less welfare is the right way forward, because there was no social justice in spending over £170 billion more than we received in tax revenues, leaving the interest on Labour’s debts alone—the interest alone—costing us more than the entire education budget. There is no social justice in spending more on benefits—on the interest on all that debt—than on helping our children with education and giving them the chance to attain and to go on to good jobs.

Some of Labour’s leadership candidates have realised that point and seen that there are no more sweeties in the sweet bag and no credible alternative to this overall philosophy of higher wages, lower tax and less welfare— unless one believes that living within one’s means is always for someone else and not for us, and one wishes to follow an anti-austerity programme that has led a country like Greece to the brink of disaster. That is a political option, but it is not one that the city of Gloucester would ever want this country to follow.

I turn briefly to the second part of my speech. The Chancellor promised in his Budget speech that we would always support the elderly, the vulnerable and the disabled.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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Our hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) said that £30 billion a year is being spent on disability living allowance and on similar allowances. Does my hon. Friend agree all Government Members welcome that?

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
- Hansard - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out that the current welfare bill is unsustainable, but he is also right—I have heard him say this in Select Committee meetings—to say it is vital that we support the elderly, the vulnerable and the disabled. It is true that the Work programme has been far more successful for those on JSA than for those on ESA. The question therefore is: how do we help those people with disabilities who are currently not getting a job and not benefiting from the Work programme in the same way as those on JSA?

Some 61% of those in the ESA work-related action group say that they want to work, and the evidence is that they do. I have heard from charities and from people with disabilities in my constituency how passionately they want to have the same working opportunities as the rest of us, so what can we do to help them? The Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), in his role as the Minister for disabled people, has the ambitious task of halving the number of people with disabilities who are out of work. He will need some innovative thinking to help him, so let me make a couple of suggestions.

Break in Debate

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Welfare reform is needed, but if it is badly thought through it will hurt people, including low-paid workers. The Bill cannot be supported without major changes, so I say to the Government, think again. If the benefits and social security regime is not subject to sensible and proportionate reform, popular support for it across society will fracture, and the case for giving assistance to those in need will be undermined. That in turn will give those who are politically or ideologically opposed to providing assistance to the vulnerable, the temporarily jobless, the low-paid in expensive private sector housing, those with life-changing disabilities, carers and others the opportunity to destroy a social contract that has been steadily constructed and refined over decades.

The support regime must of course be refreshed and renewed for each new generation, and to fit prevailing social and economic conditions. Those who argue against any change are doing real harm to the durability of that social contract. But those changes must be carefully considered and evidenced, proportionate and progressive.

The Government are opening themselves up to accusations that their intentions may not be entirely pure and may not be focused on good and appropriate reforms. We can look at the rush, and at the dismissal of critical analysis of the consequences of tax and benefit changes. There is a seemingly cavalier and careless attitude to negative impacts on low-paid working families, carers, some people with disabilities, and absolute and relative child poverty. All those things suggest that the honourable and high ambitions of some Government Members—to reform the regime to help people out of poverty—risk being bound together with a lower and less honourable ideological fixation with urging the poor to sort themselves out.

I have long been in favour of sensible, progressive and radical welfare reform. Most people, including Labour party members and supporters, want those reforms focused on conditionality, which is not limited only to funds, to help people back to work. They want support for those who genuinely cannot work, and help for carers that gives them dignity, not a begging bowl. They also want a continuing commitment and specific policies to target and remove poverty. Those are all marks of a decent society and decent government. Yet I cannot and will not vote for the Bill today, despite the need for reform, because it risks making life more miserable, desperate and unforgiving for some of the most financially exposed and vulnerable people in our society. The full-throated proponents of the Bill do not seem to see that, or perhaps they do not want to see it.

The core mission of government surely has to be to help make the lives of people better, or, at the very least not to make them worse. That is why I urge all Government Members, including well-meaning supporters of the Bill, to think long and hard before swallowing it whole. The digestion of the contents by their constituents back home will be long and bitter, compared with the short-lived, sugary-sweet taste of a brief political moment in Westminster. I say to them: do not punish low-paid workers, when the IFS shows clearly that the combined impact of the tax and benefit reforms will do exactly that; do not further impoverish children, when groups such as 4Children, which are not against reform, call for changes to be made sensitively and intelligently; do not shoot the messenger by dismissing authoritative organisations and individuals who point out the flaws in the Government’s proposals.

The Bill as it stands will not have my support today, and unless it is changed to take into account the valid concerns that have been raised, it will not have my support in future. In the light of all the dangers contained in it, I call on the Government to think again.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow the thoughtful and interesting speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). He showed huge sincerity in his opposition to the Government, but during a couple of sections of his speech, I thought he might be joining us in the Lobby this evening, and I am disappointed that on this occasion he will not. I draw his attention to the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) and other hon. Friends who have pointed out that this is, in fact, the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. I thought the hon. Gentleman was getting there—surely we all support systems that work; surely we all want annual reports to the House on progress on full employment, troubled families and apprenticeships. There must be much in the Bill that hon. Members on both sides of the House can agree on.

The last Labour Government spent £170 billion in tax credits between 2004 and 2010. It is not unreasonable to ask whether that £170 billion, or at least some of it, could not have been better spent on measures that would change recipients’ life chances. That is particularly true since we know we have to live within our means, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) stated so eloquently—far more eloquently than I put it in my intervention on him. Between 2010 and 2015, the welfare reform that we achieved made savings of £60 billion, helping to halve the deficit and restore confidence in our public finances. In the same period, employment increased by no less than 2 million. In my constituency, the number of people who are unemployed has fallen by a third, and I am sure that similar statistics could be quoted by hon. Members throughout the Chamber if they chose to reel them off.

The best way to tackle poverty and reform welfare is to ensure that everyone who can work has that opportunity. That is the best way to tackle poverty both in this generation and in the next. Under this Government, 387,000 fewer children are being brought up in workless households. That is hugely positive in enhancing the life chances of all our people. I am delighted that the Government are not only targeting full employment but ensuring, through the introduction of the national living wage and the targeted reduction of tax, that those working in lower-paid jobs get a fairer reward.

The proposal to reduce the welfare cap is right for two reasons. It will support a culture in which people know that work will always pay, and that it is the best way to maximise income and support a family. It is also right to redirect our support to enhancing life chances. The funds saved will go towards increasing the number of quality apprenticeships—I take the point made by the shadow Secretary of State that they must be quality apprenticeships, and I am sure that is what we will get. I know that enabling young people to achieve their ambitions is close to the hearts of all of us, on both sides of the House. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling) that that is an exciting feature of the Bill, which we should all support. The Government have overseen the creation of 2 million apprenticeships, delivering more apprenticeships in two years than Labour delivered in five. The Bill will take the aspiration further, with a target of 3 million apprenticeships.

I acknowledge much of what the hon. Member for Ogmore said, but there are great differences across the House in how we achieve our aims. We believe—

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Thursday 9th July 2015

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Dr Whiteford
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I am sure that the hon. Lady is well aware that Scotland’s childcare offer is significantly better than that enjoyed by people in other parts of the UK, and that our housing situation is not exacerbated by real rent imbalances similar to those experienced in London and the south-east of England in particular. I will pick up on that later.

The hon. Lady will also be aware that the Scottish block grant is calculated on the basis of the contents of the Red Book. The money currently allocated to Scotland is determined by this Chamber, so this Budget is relevant to everybody throughout the UK. It would be very wrong to ignore the fact that the purse strings are still controlled here, and that is one of the reasons why I argue for those powers to be sent up the road to Scotland, where we can use them more wisely.

I want to return to the issue of child poverty and the paper exercises conducted to measure it. Whatever we do to massage the figures, I do not think any of us can avoid the evidence of our own eyes in our constituencies. We are seeing growth in child poverty on the ground. We see it in the rise of food banks, which have already been alluded to, and in the larger number of people coming through MPs’ doors with income-related problems. That is also being experienced by advice bureaux. We also see it in the evidence of organisations that work directly with vulnerable families and those on low incomes.

In my constituency, one in five children is growing up in poverty. That might come as a surprise, because we enjoy some of the lowest unemployment in the whole country. A very small percentage of people are not in work, but many thousands of people are in low-paid work, and it is those working poor who are going to be most affected by what was announced yesterday.

More families than ever are running to stand still, and under this Government more people are being left behind. The UK has a deeply polarised labour market, and the ability of people in low-paid work to get ahead is severely curtailed.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard -

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr Whiteford
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I will not give way at the moment.

Amid all the rhetoric and the hyperbole of Budget day, it would have been very easy to form the impression from the media lines being trotted out yesterday that tax credits are predominantly a benefit paid to unemployed people, when in fact the opposite is the case. In Scotland, the overwhelming majority of tax credits are paid to working people. In fact, half of all families benefit from tax credits, and 95% of tax credits in Scotland are paid to families with children. We should make no mistake about where the cuts are being targeted.

It is inevitable that today we will consider the short-term consequences, because those cuts will put acute pressure on families, but we should be under no illusion: growing up in poverty has serious long-term consequences for children, too. It is associated with poorer educational attainment, poorer job prospects, poorer health throughout life and lower life expectancy. That is why asking families to bear the brunt of the cuts is so short-sighted. It has not only an enormous social cost, but an enormous economic cost: it holds back our economic progress and productivity, which are what we should really be focusing on and trying to improve.

The Government have tried to argue, today and yesterday, that the cuts will be offset by increases to the minimum wage and changes to the personal allowance, but that claim simply does not stand up to scrutiny. I think we all welcome the announcement of a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage to £7.20 an hour from next year and, indeed, the changes to national insurance, but let us not kid ourselves that rebranding the minimum wage as a living wage will actually make it a living wage.

There is already a living wage: it is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation and is already used by employers in the public, private and third sectors, including, I am very pleased to say, the Scottish Government. The living wage is based on the actual cost of living and it is already £7.85 an hour outside London and is due to go up again in November. We need to be absolutely clear that £7.20 is not a living wage and it will not offset the cuts in tax credits.

The critical point about the living wage is that it has been calculated on the basis of low-paid workers claiming their full entitlement to tax credits at the present rate, so any cut in tax credits means that the living wage will have to go up even further in order for it to provide enough for people to live on. If the Government take on board only one of the points I make today, I want it to be that one.

Break in Debate

Graham Evans
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I am most grateful to the hon. Lady. I will indeed look into those figures. I hold surgeries every Friday, so I will see constituents about that. What I would say to her is that unemployment in Weaver Vale has dropped by 70% since 2010, and that is 80% full-time, good quality jobs.

I am not saying it is easy, but these difficult decisions have to be made. When Gordon Brown introduced working tax credits, he said the figure would be £2 billion. It is now £30 billion. The Labour party has to decide—I asked this question yesterday and did not get a reply—whether £30 billion is too much, too little or about right. We have to make these difficult decisions, but the hon. Lady makes an important point. I am not saying for a moment that it will be easy, but we are the party of aspiration. We are the party that always makes work pay, which is something that did not happen under 13 years of Labour.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend will recognise, as those of us on the Government Benches do, that we will still be paying out tax credits in the same numbers that we were paying them out in 2007 and 2008, under the last Labour Government. What we are talking about is the sudden spike to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions referred in his speech.

Graham Evans
- Hansard - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Working-age benefits are something we have to tackle so that we can eradicate the deficit and start paying down the national debt. That is what I believe in. I believe that the Government are right: a higher-wage, lower-tax, lower-welfare economy. Britain is open for business. That is the future for our country.

Break in Debate

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- Hansard - - Excerpts

In a global economy, where companies can invest in any country they choose and base their operations anywhere around the globe, it is absolutely essential that we get companies to invest in our country. We are ensuring that that happens by setting a competitive rate of corporation tax.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard -

Does my hon. Friend, like me, welcome the OBR’s confirmation that business investment grew by 8% last year? It expects business investment to grow this year and next year. I think my hon. Friend has quite a lot of ammunition with which to respond to the hon. Member for East Lothian (George Kerevan).

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. Investment in our country is growing, which is why we have an increase in revenues.

For all three reasons, this is a Conservative Budget that is a Budget for all. It is founded on principles that should command cross-party support.

Break in Debate

Jack Dromey Portrait Jack Dromey
- Hansard - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman and I both come from a trade union background. I feel for public servants such as the firefighters, the police officers, the nurses. All those who do excellent work for the communities we serve, who have already been squeezed for five years, now face a 1% increase for the next four years. Effectively, that means a substantial cut in the living standards of millions of public servants.

The Chancellor says that the £7.20 rate will start next April, but the real living wage—I repeat, the real living wage—is already £7.85, or £9.15 in London; that is not based on cutting tax credits. As for the Chancellor being the workers’ friend, I did not come down with the last rainfall, and neither did the country. It is not a living wage if people cannot live on it. As the reality dawns and millions feel the pain of what the Chancellor has done, the last 24 hours of triumphalism on the part of the Conservative party will give way to the grim reality as Government Members go back to their constituencies and explain why they are inflicting cuts in living standards on the hundreds or potentially thousands of families they represent. The IFS’s verdict today is absolutely damning: for 13 million families, the living wage will not compensate for the tax credit cuts, and the poorest will be hit much harder.

When it comes to the Tories as the party of working people, let us not forget that this was certainly not a Budget for young working people. The crucial test of any Government is how they treat the next generation. Young people need the basics in life to get on—a decent job or education, and a roof over their heads. The Budget fails on all those points. It locks young people out of the living wage, makes higher education increasingly a luxury and cuts housing benefit for thousands who would otherwise end up homeless.

At this defining moment for our country, we must ask ourselves about what kind of country, economy and society we want. For me, it is an economy with a real living wage, not a phoney one. Crucially, as I have argued throughout my trade union life, it is the high-pay, high-quality, high-productivity culture of the kind that can be seen in the Jaguar factory in my constituency. We need a serious long-term economic plan if we are to promote such a high-pay, high-quality, high-productivity culture throughout our country, but the Budget failed lamentably on the fundamentals of productivity, skills, homes, rail and road. Ultimately, this country will never succeed and working people will certainly never succeed if we proceed on the basis of a low-waged, low-productivity economy.

What kind of country do we want? It has to be one in which our citizens are safe where they live and work, their children are protected and we are protected from terrorism. It is therefore fundamental folly for the Government, having cut 17,000 police officers, to continue down the path of cutting 17,000 more police officers. What kind of society do we want? Before the Budget, the OECD was right to warn against measures that would slow recovery and harm the poor, but that is exactly what will now happen.

Rick was a lifelong Tory and an ex-sergeant-major in the British Army, but he has joined my local Labour party. He told me, “I was a lifelong Tory, but I have joined the Labour party because I believe in both aspiration and support for the vulnerable.” He is in sharp contrast to a cunning Chancellor who gives hubris a bad name and is ambitious not so much for the country as for himself. After the last 24 hours—and the last century—now and in the future, the simple reality is that the party for the working people always was and always will be the Labour party.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
- Hansard -

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), and we have also heard five excellent maiden speeches this afternoon. Between them, they covered Walter Scott, the Brontës, George Eliot, Roosevelt and Voltaire. I do not want to sow any dissension within the ranks of the Scottish National party, but I will leave it to the hon. Members for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Dr Monaghan) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) to sort out between themselves who has the more beautiful constituency, to which they both laid claim. All five maiden speakers exhibited the great passion with which I am sure they will defend their constituents in the future. I hope that they would all agree that in setting any budget—for a household, a company or a country—it is best to start with reality.

The reality that we face is a deficit of £90 billion a year and a national debt of 80% of GDP. That should have a sobering effect on all our considerations and, clearly, the former Chancellor Alistair Darling is well aware of it, given his remarks this morning. I hope that where he leads the official Opposition will follow. It is the easiest thing in the world to run up a deficit, and a Government can become very popular in doing so. As the House knows, it is very painful to get it back under control.

The Budget can be commended on many grounds, but its most important characteristic is that it means we can anticipate our national finances returning to surplus during the lifetime of this Parliament—and a healthy and growing surplus at that. To have eliminated a deficit of £150 billion is a historic achievement.

Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Of course, the Chancellor actually announced that he was postponing achieving a surplus for a year, which he said he would achieve by 2018-19. Does the hon. Gentleman welcome that deferral?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard -

I am delighted that the Chancellor set out a clear, smooth plan that will get us to a surplus of £10 billion—a larger surplus than was anticipated previously—by the end of this Parliament, and it will grow from there. I recognise the point the right hon. Gentleman makes, but I am proud of what the Chancellor has managed to achieve. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would accept that the elimination of a deficit of £150 billion is no mean feat.

As we all know, the best way to eliminate a deficit is to achieve growth in the economy. The best news, which I am sure we would all endorse, is the forecast from the OBR of continuing growth in our economy. It is a solid basis on which to build. I especially welcome the extra 8% investment from business in 2014, and the fact that that is expected to grow this year and next will be an important part of our recovery programme. It is great that we are achieving that growth notwithstanding the external headwinds. The shadow Chancellor was a little ungenerous in criticising us for having fewer exports to the eurozone: we are growing as an economy, but the eurozone is in a sorry state and it is no wonder that our exporters are suffering at the moment.

All economic forecasts, however, including those of the wise men and women of the OBR, are of course vulnerable. We only need to look at China and Greece at the moment to realise that no one with any credibility would ever claim that we can abolish boom and bust. I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s publication of the new rules of the fiscal charter. This Government, once they have returned the country to surplus within this Parliament, will still be looking to the future. The fiscal charter will help this Parliament and, in particular, future Parliaments to hold the Government to account, to ensure that in normal times they continue to pay down our national debt and restore our national fortunes. Without sound and sustainable public finances, there is no economic security for working people. With sound and sustainable public finances, we will ensure that by the 2030s Britain is the most prosperous major economy in the world.

The whole House would recognise that that prosperity, while welcome, is not a goal in itself. It would be a hollow success if that prosperity was not widely shared among all our citizens. That is why I welcome the Chancellor’s creation of the national living wage and the raising of the basic tax threshold to £11,000. I am delighted that it is a one nation Conservative Government who are seeking to take the lowest paid out of income tax altogether. I went on record supporting the principle of a living wage during the election campaign. It seems to me a positive step in ensuring that work pays for all those who undertake it. The principle that we have a society in which everyone has access to work and is fairly paid for it is surely a good one. Higher wages and lower taxes must be a principle that surely Members on both sides of the House would endorse. The natural corollary of that is that in good times there will be lower welfare expenditure.

I welcome the progress on corporation tax, making the UK an enormously fiscally attractive place in which to operate a business. Combined with the employment allowance, this will ensure that the costs for business of meeting the new national living wage are offset. Similarly, I note what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said earlier about tax credits. The original system cost just over £1 billion but has risen to £30 billion, which is not sustainable. It needs to be addressed, and I note that we will still maintain expenditure on tax credits in real terms at around the level spent in the 2007-08 fiscal year, under the last Labour Government.

Lastly—I recognise that time is short, Madam Deputy Speaker—I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on the road fund and the increased expenditure on the NHS to meet the NHS’s own five-year plan, as recognised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis (James Morris). My constituency of Horsham has had to accept significant additional house building. That is a concern for many residents. Those concerns will not be eradicated, but they can be mitigated if we all know that there will be enhanced infrastructure to meet the needs of an expanding population. That is especially the case with healthcare, and I look forward to taking up specific issues with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I welcome the additional expenditure on the NHS as a positive recognition that, while we cannot have increased NHS spending without a growing economy, a growing economy may also place increased and different demands on the NHS. I congratulate the Chancellor on an excellent Budget.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

First, may I congratulate all the Members who have made their maiden speeches today? It has been fascinating to hear what they had to say and about their constituencies, which are very different from my constituency of Luton North.

The Budget has given me a tax cut that I do not need, which has been paid for by young people, students, the poor and public sector workers. Social justice would require the opposite of that, so I do not buy the idea that the Chancellor has somehow inched towards the centre ground of politics. He is still a right winger, concerned primarily with helping and protecting the wealthy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) has recorded today, the IFS calculates that 13 million UK families will lose an average of £260 a year, while those with estates of £1 million will not have to pay any inheritance tax, so we know where the Chancellor’s heart really lies.

Much more interesting than the Budget, which is a typical Tory Budget really, is the OBR’s report “Economic and fiscal outlook”, published at the same time. There are indeed myths about the economy that have to be dispelled. Britain’s economy is not healthy; indeed, the opposite is the case. Britain is a low-wage, low-investment, low-productivity economy. Indeed, the productivity of Germany and France are 25% greater than Britain’s and we are sixth in the G7, with only the ailing Japan behind us—so there are problems, and the Budget will not make much difference to that fact.

Over several decades, Britain’s manufacturing sector has shrunk drastically, and it is now far too small to sustain what we need ourselves. As a result, our trade balance, especially with the rest of the EU, is in enormous and chronic deficit. In his Budget statement, the Chancellor made very little reference to the wider macroeconomic environment—which the hon. Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin) touched on—and that is very worrying indeed.

The Government chant their mantras about the Government deficit and public finances while private debt is surging once again. An asset price bubble continues to grow that will inevitably burst, with drastic consequences for households and the economy as a whole. One million of our people are now dependent on food banks—a number that will be dwarfed when the crash comes. I use the word “crash” because that is what we face, with inept and misguided economic policies at home and global factors again driving us towards recession. China’s economy is decelerating and is now in a share price crisis; Japan’s economic weakness continues, with no end in sight; the eurozone is a basket case; and the USA has seen a false economic dawn, with another asset price bubble driven by corrupt share buy-back schemes, among other factors.

“Demand is slowing, share prices will be devastated, and recession is coming, with downturns that will be remembered in 100 years.” Those are not my predictions but the words of Crispin Odey, one of London’s leading hedge fund managers, who tends to get his predictions right, including on the 2008 crisis. My own conclusion is simply that globalisation—neo-liberalism—does not work and that leaving the financial markets and the global corporations free to do what they like, with no effective economic borders to constrain them, has caused one disaster and another is coming.

The Government’s claimed economic success since 2010 is a mirage. After 2010, they first tried savage cuts in public spending, in theory to reduce the public finance deficit, but by 2012 they realised that this was simply driving the country into recession, so they reduced their pressure on the economic brake and tried a bit of quantitative easing. Asset prices began to rise, notably in housing, and consumer spending edged upwards, producing a modest rise in economic growth. However, we still have low productivity—a chronic disease in Britain’s economy—and we still bump along, sustained only by low wages and income from asset sales to foreigners: another version of selling the family silver, as Harold Macmillan so famously put it.

The one advantage that Britain does have is its own currency, able to flex to appropriate parities with other currencies. After the 2008 crisis, sterling depreciated against the euro by 27% and against the dollar by 31%, offering a degree of protection against the worst ravages of the crisis. But even that example has been wasted, with sterling surging against the euro from €1.02 to €1.40, increasing our export prices and decreasing import prices by over a third, and driving Britain’s ongoing and gigantic trade deficit with the rest of the EU. That deficit—over £1 billion a week—is equivalent to exporting at least 1 million jobs to the continent. Page 71 of the OBR report shows a gigantic current account deficit of some 6% of GDP—about £100 billion, or £1,600 for every person in Britain.

There are sensible alternatives to all this economic nonsense, and with much more time I would have been pleased to spell them out. In the short term, however, we must not be fooled into believing that the Government and their predecessor coalition have got things right when all the elements are present for another economic crisis. The Government are doing nothing to protect our economy from the next crisis, and they must not be allowed to escape the blame when it comes.

Before I conclude, I must again emphasise my concern about the sterling exchange rate. Some Members may remember that I raised my concerns about sterling’s over-valuation with Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor. He responded sotto voce that it was not Government policy to target the exchange rate. In more recent times, I have raised the same issue in this Chamber with the Prime Minister and this Chancellor, with similar measured, if negative, responses. In my very last oral question before Dissolution, I again asked the same question of the now-departed Business Secretary, Vince Cable. He responded, astonishingly, by suggesting that there was no evidence that the exchange rate was a significant factor in the economy’s performance. Only a few days later, it was reported that manufacturing was suffering from the high euro exchange rate and that the economy was being sustained only by domestic consumer demand, with the main risks coming from the eurozone.

Much has been made of Britain’s greatly improved automotive sector, which I applaud. It is true that we make excellent-quality vehicles, including the Vauxhall Vivaro, made in Luton, but it remains the case that we import twice as many cars from the rest of the EU as we export to it. Had I had an opportunity to do so, I would have reminded Vince Cable of the big depreciation after 2008; the rapid recovery from the 1992 exchange rate mechanism debacle, driven by a large exchange rate reduction; and even the 1931 departure from the gold standard, which laid the foundation for the economic recovery from the inter-war depression.

An appropriate exchange rate is not a sufficient condition for economic success, but it is a vital one. Had Britain been stuck in the euro, at a parity perhaps as high as €1.50 to the pound, the economy would have been utterly wrecked, with Britain almost certainly crashing out of the euro, probably bringing down the whole euro edifice in the process.

The Government are riding for a fall if nothing is done to bring down Britain’s bloated exchange rate, and soon. Writing recently in The Guardian, Larry Elliott said that the Government were sitting on an economic time bomb. That is surely the case, and the priority must be to bring down sterling’s exchange rate with the euro. The Budget must be seen in that wider context and the Chancellor’s mind should be focused on those wider international dangers, or we will all be in trouble.

Child Poverty

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 1st July 2015

(5 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith
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The hon. Gentleman and I should be at one, because we are addressing the facts. That is what today’s announcement was about. The hon. Gentleman mentions the number of those who are in work but who have not risen out of poverty. The figures I read out earlier show that, of those who fail to get proper maths or English qualifications at school and make it into work—they are in the minority—some 75% of the women will never progress because of their failure to get qualifications. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that I am answering his charge through educational attainment—driving change for those children and getting them into work so that they can progress?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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As a former director of a credit union, I am deeply concerned about the level of indebtedness that is endured by and has blighted the lives of many low-income families. Would the Secretary of State care to expand further on the Government’s plans to address this very difficult problem?

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Mr Duncan Smith
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My hon. Friend should know that in the last Parliament we put a significant amount of money into credit unions. It is our plan—we are determined about this—to get credit unions to expand and to work with them so that they become the key element for people on low incomes and others to be able to get decent support, including financial support. I recommend that all hon. Members set an example by making sure that they are members of credit unions.