MPs debate amendments made by the House of Lords to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Posted on 23 Feb 2016 under Latest in Parliament

Priti Patel: The Bill is a vital part of the Government’s reforms that are moving this country to a high wage, low tax, low welfare economy. It is fundamental to our commitment to end child poverty and improve children’s life chances, and to ensure that work always pays more than a life on benefits and that support is focused on the most vulnerable.

As is right and proper, the Bill’s provisions have been carefully scrutinised by both this House and the other place. Where appropriate the Government have tabled amendments to bring clarity or to remove unintended consequences, and they have made important commitments on supported housing and the social rents measure, on kinship carers and sibling adoptions under clauses 11 and 12, and on guardian’s allowance and carer’s allowance in relation to the benefit cap. The Government remain firmly committed to the aims and principles of the Bill as it left this House, and for that reason we wish to resist the non-Government Lords amendments.

Before I address each area in detail, allow me to set out the key principles that underpin our disagreement with the Lords. Our view is that the addition of child poverty income measures is unnecessary because we have already committed to publishing statistics on children in low-income families through the “Households below average income”—HBAI—publication. Lords amendment 1 would also reintroduce a failed approach to child poverty that is focused on tackling its symptoms rather than its root cause, and it would drive perverse behaviour focused on lifting people just above the poverty line, rather than on a life chances strategy that could transform children’s lives.

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): Does the Minister accept that income has a huge impact on life chances?

Priti Patel: Income is one of many factors that impact on life chances and poverty, which is why the Government are very much focused on tackling the root causes of child poverty. I will come on to discuss that issue even
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I know that Labour Members disagree with that, and they will soon have their chance to comment.

On the change to the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance, and to the limited capability for work element of universal credit, I stress that the Government are fully focused on helping people who can work into work. We want to end a broken system that is patently failing those it should be helping, and ensure that a good proportion of the savings are recycled into long-term practical support that will have a transformative effect on people’s lives.

Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): The Minister mentions the fact that income is a factor in poverty, but the executive summary of her own Government’s report from January 2014 states:

“The main factor is lack of sufficient income from parental employment, which restricts the amount of earnings a household has.”

It is not just a factor, it is fundamental.

Read the full debate in Hansard or view it on Parliament TV