Oral Answers to Questions

Justin Tomlinson Excerpts
Monday 13th September 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Work and Pensions
Jon Trickett Portrait Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab)
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10. What steps her Department is taking to help implement the Government's levelling-up agenda. (903380)

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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Recruitment, retention and career progression are key to levelling up, so the successful delivery of the Government’s plan for jobs is vital. Through both the national disability strategy and the health and disability Green Paper, we also explore levelling up opportunities for disabled people specifically.

Jon Trickett Portrait Jon Trickett
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The point is that the Minister’s Department is required to address poverty and to make work pay, but the minimum wage is simply too low. Otherwise, why is it that 2.3 million working families are on universal credit? Now there is a triple whammy coming to those poorly paid people: withdrawing the furlough, raising national insurance payments and cuts to universal credit. The underlying causes of poverty are greedy bosses and rapacious landlords, but does the Minister accept that the cuts they are now imposing will drive up already shameful levels of poverty? Will he say to his colleagues that it is time to cancel the cuts?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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Tackling poverty is a key priority for this Government, as seen with the £650 billion infrastructure investment that will deliver 425,000 more jobs a year. While the temporary increase to universal credit is coming to an end, the national living wage and income tax threshold increases, worth over £4,000 to people in full-time work, will continue, as will the universal credit work allowance changes worth up to £630 and the local housing allowance worth £600. Our excellent work coaches, who have doubled in number over the last 12 months, will be doing everything in their power to support people to take advantage of the record job opportunities.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab)
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11. What assessment she has made of the impact on levels of poverty of ending the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit. [R] (903381)

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James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con)
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12. What steps she is taking to help ensure that disabled people can take up employment opportunities during the economic recovery from the covid-19 outbreak. (903382)

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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We are committed to seeing 1 million more disabled people in work, supporting that through initiatives including the work and health programme, access to work, disability confident and increasing the number of disability employment advisers to over 1,000. We want to help more disabled people to prepare for, start, stay and succeed in work where it is right for them.

James Daly Portrait James Daly
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The Minister and the Secretary of State have a proud record of putting in place programmes that increase opportunities for everyone to access high-quality employment and training. Further to his earlier answer, can the Minister confirm what specific steps he is taking to ensure that the bespoke needs of people on the autistic spectrum are no barrier to accessing employment or training opportunities? Will he join me in thanking local organisations in Bury, such as the Met theatre which runs confidence-building sessions for children on the autistic spectrum, for the role they play in developing the skills that each child needs to thrive in the job market?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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My hon. Friend highlights the absolute importance of supporting people with autism into work, highlighting the supported internships, traineeships, local supported employment pilots, intensive personalised employment support and disability apprenticeships, in addition to the broader options across the work and health programme and plan for jobs. We are currently consulting through the Department for Work and Pensions Green Paper on other ways to improve disability employment opportunities. Best practice, as seen in places such as the Met theatre, is exactly the sort of thing we want to learn lessons from.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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13. What discussions she has had with the Welsh Government on the impact of ending the £20 uplift to the standard allowance of universal credit on people in Newport West constituency. (903383)

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Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
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T8. It is vital that disabled people are able to play an active role in public life, particularly those with visual impairments. Will my hon. Friend therefore update the House on what the Government are doing to support this? (903402)

Justin Tomlinson Portrait The Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work (Justin Tomlinson)
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We are committed to seeing more disabled people becoming elected representatives. In addition to political parties doing more, the national disability strategy sets out the Minister for the Constitution’s work to bring forward a new scheme in 2022 to support candidates and, importantly, those already elected to public office.

Vicky Foxcroft Portrait Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
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It was disappointing that the Government chose to sneak out their disability strategy over the summer recess, meaning that we had no opportunity to question the Minister on its failure to address barriers to employment for disabled people. Why are his Government not introducing mandatory reporting on the disability employment and pay gaps? Why does the strategy contain no proposals to work with trade unions? Most importantly, can he explain why no parliamentary time has been given over to the scrutiny of this strategy?

Justin Tomlinson Portrait Justin Tomlinson
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I am very much looking forward to going to the Work and Pensions Committee to discuss this very topic this coming Wednesday. It is disappointing that the hon. Member does not recognise that, despite the unprecedented challenges of covid, we once again saw an increase in disability employment over the past year. The figure now stands at 1.5 million since 2013, with the disability employment gap continuing to close. This Government are absolutely committed to their target of 1 million more disabled people in work by 2027.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con)
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Could the Secretary of State—or the Minister for Pensions, who is doing such great work in this area—explain what they are doing to ensure that when pensions are invested, the environmental, social and governance agenda is about incentivising high-quality sustainable products across the world, for instance in Africa, and not just becoming a box-ticking exercise here at home?