Speech: On the Welfare Uprating Bill – House of Commons, 2013

by Liam Byrne | 08.01.13 | in: Squeezed middle, Tories, Universal credit, Welfare reform, Work and Pensions

Mr Speaker I rise to move the amendment in my name and the name of my Rt Hon. friends.

It’s appropriate that we have today the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Chancellor’s representative.

I’m sorry we don’t have the Chancellor in person.

He and the Pensions Secretary don’t see eye to eye on much.

But they are jointly and severally liable for the haemorrhaging budget, which this Bill seeks to staunch.

But I must say the way they have treated the House with complete contempt.

They published the impact assessment at 12:15. It makes radically different assumptions to the notes published by HM Treasury last November.

And now they propose to ram this Bill through the House in a single day.

They are terrified of scrutiny and exposure.

Mr Speaker this is turning into a hit and run on working families – and we should not stand for it.

But the Chancellor should have showed up to help clear up the consequences of his failure.

His reputation as a maker of recessions is now well established.

Established beyond doubt.

Every time he comes to the House he is forced to admit he’s botched it up again. Every time he comes he downgrades growth.

Since he took office he has pretty successfully battered the life out of the recovery we left him.

No Chancellor for 35 years can claim to have created a double dip recession… it’s a wonder to all of us that he seems so pleased himself. History won’t judge him well.

But the Chancellor has a partner in crime. The Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State has become the comical Ali of the government.

The only man in the DWP who thinks everything is fine and hunky dory.

A man who would put Dr Pangloss to shame.

Every time he comes to the House he has words of reassurance:

  • Everything on his watch is going according to plan.
  • The Work Programme he blithely assures us is fine.
  • Universal credit we are assured is completely and totally on track. Not a hiccup to be heard.
  • The benefit cap is absolutely definitely to start in May.


DWP Disaster Zone

The only problem is Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State is living in a fantasy world of his his own.

Everything is not OK.

Everything is not on time.

And everything is certainly not on budget.

We were promised a Work Programme, bigger than any yet known to man. So big it could be seen from space.

Mr Speaker, it is a programme that is so effective, that it is literally worse than doing nothing.

It works so well that just 3/100 passing through the programme pass into jobs. It is a disaster.

Then we have Universal Credit.

The policy that would ensure it always paid to work.

A policy proceeding so smoothly that has earned wide-spread support across government.

Members of the Cabinet, perhaps even sharing an office with the Hon. Member for Bromsgrove, are so impressed with it that they are telling anyone who will listen at the Daily Mail, that it is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ and that the it is ‘nowhere near ready’.

The Secretary of State has so much grip on the project that the Prime Minister himself invited the Secretary to pack his bags and move jobs.

As a vote of confidence that no doubt rang around Caxton House, where I notice all the senior staff are leaving as fast as they can.

And now we have news that the benefit cap which the noble Lord Freud told the other place, would absolutely, definitely, without question be introduced in May, is now scheduled for introduction in just 4 London boroughs.


The Cost of Economic Failure

Mr Speaker, this is a record of chaos, delay and impending disaster.

And today the government are inviting millions of hard working British families to pay for it.

When the Chancellor came to the house in December, he was forced to admit that growth had again eluded him. It had got away.

He offered us measures so well targeted at generating jobs, that the OBR took one look at it and revised, not down, but up the claimant count by 300,000 people.

And the OBR had more to say. It spelt out just how much this was set to cost us.

It is an eye watering figure.

The Chancellor and the Secretary of State heroic efforts to get Britain growing have cost us £6 billion in higher welfare bills.

And now we see in today’s bill, who exactly is going to pick up the tab.

Not Britain’s richest citizens.

No, no.

They are so hard pressed and so under the cosh that they are being given a tax cut. Millionaires indeed will have £107,000 more from next year to help heat the swimming pool.

No, it’s not millionaires who are picking up the tab.

It is Britain’s working families. This Bill is a strivers’ tax, pure and simple.

This Bill cuts £6 billion from annually managed expenditure.

Almost the precise amount the welfare budget has risen as a result of rising forecast unemployment.

And what they tried to hide on budget day is now well-know

Two-thirds of the people who will be hit by the Bill are working people.


Who’s Hurt?

Yesterday, the IFS did us a great favour:

  • It set out for the first time, that a total 7 million working people will be hit
  • That is nearly half of working people in Britain

Now members of the Treasury bench like to cry, don’t worry, don’t panic

Working people are going to be compensated by the rises in the personal allowance.

Mr Speaker, this is simply not true.

  • The IFS is very clear about this.
  • The real income of a one earner working family is going to be £534/ year less by the 2015/16.

Now the Childrens’ Society have told us what it means for some of the Britain’s families:

  • What does that mean for a second lieutenant with three kids? It means £552/ year less. There are 40,000 like him or her.
  • What does that mean for a lone parent nurse with two kids? It means £424 less a year
  • What does it mean for a primary school teacher on £600/ week? It means £424 less each year

Are these the people the Chancellor is saying have their blinds closed each morning.

I’d suggest they are doing an awful lot more for this country than the Chancellor of the Exchequer right now.

I know he thought he was being very clever: ‘Playing the politics of the playground’ looking for a dividing line – as the Hon. Member for Brent put it.

Well, what does that mean for your average Tory-held constituency? It means an average x,000 families worse off – a number I notice which is bigger than the majority in 127 seats.

I mention that in passing.

Mr Speaker, I ask: why should a second lieutenant, a nurse, a primary school teacher, or 6,000 residents in every Tory constituency be asked to pay for the Government’s failure to get Britain back to work?

Mr Speaker, this a strivers’ tax pure and simple and it should not be supported.

  • This bill does nothing to create a single new job.
  • It does nothing to remedy the deficiencies of the work programme.
  • It does nothing to resolve the universal chaos in universal credit. It does nothing to fix the benefit cap.
  • It does nothing but punish working families who are now losing 9 billion of support under this government while they hand out 3 billion a year in tax cuts for the wealthiest.



I want the House to be absolutely clear about the values that now dominate this Conservative party.

We’re at the mid-term point in this Parliament. Its a good time to take stock.

Once upon a time, the Secretary of State said this:

‘Conservative policies have to work for Britain’s poorest communities and every policy must be measured by that standard’.

That’s what he said on the 28 June 2004.

Now, let’s weigh up the impact of his bill for Britain’s different communities.

The effect of this bill will mean that:

  • Child benefit will rise by 20p a week
  • Maternity allowance will rise by £1.37 a week
  • JSA will rise by 72p/ week

Mr Speaker, the income of a millionaire will rise by 2,058 pounds a week.

How can he justify that?

He can’t!

The Chancellor wanted a dividing line on welfare – and the SoS has obliged him with a bill that will undo 10 years of campaigning to the Tory party into a party that actually cared about poverty.


The Kind of Country We’re Becoming

Mr Speaker, in our country today, we have a food bank opening every three days; and we have some 5 million people who say they may have to turn to pay-day loans this year.

Is this the kind of country we are becoming?

The Saint of Easterhouse has become the punch-bag of the Treasury.

Once he talked of Broken Britain.

Well, now he’s given us Breadline Britain.

Because he keeps losing his battles.


Labour’s Alternative

The tragedy, Mr Speaker, is that this Bill does not even do what it says on the tin.

It fails the Ronseal test.

Put tax credits aside, and the social security budget is not set to fall, it’s set to rise.

It’s set to rise over the period of this bill by £8 billion.

That’s not 1% – that’s 4%

They are failing to cap welfare costs because they are failing to get Britain back to work.

Isn’t the reality that there is a labour way to bring down the welfare bill – and a Tory way?

The Tory way, aided and abetted by the liberal democrats, is to attack tax credits.

Topping up the 14 billion cut already in place with another 4 billion.

The labour way to being down welfare spending is to get people into jobs. Into jobs paying tax, off the dole where they are taking out benefits.

That’s why we have brought forward our reasoned amendment, Mr Speaker.

Because we believe it would be better to introduce a bank bonus tax to create jobs for 100,000 young people.

To reform pension tax relief to relate a two year limit to JSA.

A clear signal that anyone who can work, must not and will not be allowed to languish or live a life on welfare.

That is the kind of tough minded, but fairly drawn policy that we now need.



Mr speaker, we will oppose this strivers tax. Welfare to work won’t work without jobs. This bill creates not a single job.

They have made one heck of a mess and now they’re trying to charge Britain’s strivers to clear it up.

I urge the house to oppose this bill today, to strike a blow for Britain’s strivers, to send this government back to the drawing board and demand instead a proper plan to get our country back to work.

And I commend this amendment to the House.



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