As Universal Credit (UC) was branded one of the worst examples of welfare reform “in the history of human kind”, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd effectively asked the new PM for another year in job – pitching the prospect of progress under her watch.
But Rudd’s praise for the proposed managed migration pilot in Harrogate was punctured by Labour’s Lilian Greenwood, who said it would be an “absolute disgrace” if related regulation was debated in full by the House.
Greenwood referenced Rudd “shockingly” announcing her intention in March to pilot managed migration even before she had secured support from Parliament.
With the Parliamentary recess pending, Greenwood accused Rudd of leaving it to “the eleventh hour” to bring related regulations to Parliament.
She cited the commitment made in January by DWP minister Alok Sharma who said: “We will…ensure that the start date for the July 2019 test phase…is voted on.”
The government’s original intention was to send nearly three million people a letter saying their benefit would stop on a particular day, and that they would have to apply for UC – shifting responsibility for securing essential support from the state to the claimant.
This concept was called out for the likelihood of catastrophic consequences for claimants.
Greenwood want a guarantee from Rudd that the regulations would be debated in full by the House.
Rudd didn’t offer a direct answer, saying: “On the one hand [Greenwood] criticises me for, as she puts it, coming out at the last minute and on the other hand she asks why this has not been done before.
“[Greenwood] cannot have it both ways: we are determined to get on with this, which is why I am here today, and which is why I am sticking to what I said we would do, which is to make sure that we come back to the House before the managed migration pilot begins.”
Rudd referenced advice DWP received from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments that, she said, allowed for making payments as soon as possible.
She told the House she hoped she could come back as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions next year and report on the outcome of the managed migration pilot.
Rudd was less forthcoming when poverty-related death rates were raised by Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who told the House she had attended the on-going inquiry into the health impacts of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, in which it was revealed that 240 children a year die as a direct consequence of being pushed into poverty and, ultimately, because of the cuts in social security support.
Abrahams urged Rudd to look into the harms to – and deaths of – not just children but disabled people as a consequence of the policies she was introducing.
“If [Abrahams] wants to show me any of the evidence she has been on the receiving end of, I would be happy to look at it,” Rudd said.