Budget does nothing for those ‘massacred’ by Universal Credit reforms, says Frank Field
Philip Hammond’s Budget will do nothing for those “massacred” by the Universal Credit welfare reforms, a veteran MP has said.
Frank Field, who chairs the Commons’ Work and Pensions Committee, poured scorn over the Chancellor’s Budget.
He told MPs it would do little to help those who have been left “not only just hungry but also pushed towards destitution”.
In response to criticism from all sides – including former prime minister Sir John Major – Mr Hammond promised billions to address concerns about the rollout of the flagship Universal Credit welfare reform.
The measures include £1 billion over five years to help the transition on to the new system and a £1,000 increase in the amount people can earn before losing benefits at a cost of up to £1.7 billion a year.
Mr Field (pictured), who was tasked with reforming welfare in the 1990s by Tony Blair, told Treasury ministers the measures did not go far enough.
The Birkenhead MP said: “The whole of the Budget deficit has been put on families and particularity families with children.
“The Chancellor told us we were turning the corner and lifting the burden of austerity – surely those who’ve borne most in making a success of getting the Budget and fiscal deficit down should be first in the queue to get some relief?
“And there was no relief in the Budget for those cuts in the social security budget.”
Mr Field said cuts for families would in fact get “worse next year and worse the year after and worse the year after that”.
He added: “The Chancellor did make some very important additions to the Universal Credit Budget and I’m grateful, as all of us must be who’ve seen our constituents massacred by this benefit.
“But there are four big changes he has yet to announce if we are to be satisfied that the rollout of Universal Credit can roll out safely to every one of our constituents.”
Mr Field urged the Government to ensure legacy benefits are paid right up until the time a claimant receives their first Universal Credit payment and called for Citizens Advice to have a greater role overseeing the rollout.
Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, also hit out at the measures, telling MPs the Budget “only undoes one half of the cuts made by George Osborne to Universal Credit just two years ago”.
She also derided the funding announcement for schools, saying: “If you look at the numbers, £10,000 for a primary school and £50,000 for a secondary school … that works out as something like £24 to £48 per child per year, 50p or a £1 a week, 20p a day per child.
“The Chancellor said it was to pay for those extra little things, well it’s very little extra indeed.”
Conservative Andrew Mitchell, a former junior social security minister, urged his colleagues to listen to Mr Field.
“I warn the Government front bench they ignore the wisdom of Mr Field at their peril,” he said.
“The cardinal rule governing benefit changes is you don’t use it to take money away or to reduce income from those on benefits and at the bottom of society in income terms.
“You can get away with a standstill for the future, you can constrain levels of increase, but you cannot reduce levels of funding of what is already very much dependency income.
“Whenever the Treasury breaks this cardinal rule the irony is that it always costs them more.”
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Anthony Devlin / PA Wire.