Plaid Cymru debate: Universal credit

Dec 6, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary 6th December 2017


Motion NDM6606 Rhun ap Iorwerth

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

1. Believes that the six-week application time for universal credit claimants will cause hardship during the Christmas period.

2. Reaffirms that the universal credit system is fundamentally flawed.

3. Calls on the UK Government to take mitigating steps to speed up universal credit payments, and avoid sanctions, over the Christmas period.

4. Calls on the Welsh Government to seek the same administrative responsibility over social security as the Scottish Government.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Spoken Contribution – 17:56:46
Watch this contribution on Senedd TV

Thanks to Plaid for bringing today’s debate. As Siân Gwenllian stated in her opening remarks, Plaid did bring a debate on this subject six weeks ago and I gave UKIP’s position at that time. Our stance hasn’t really changed since then so I will be fairly brief, particularly bearing in mind that this is only a half-hour debate.

We in UKIP share the concerns of other parties here over universal credit. As a party, we haven’t supported a lot of the Conservatives’ welfare reforms. We were against the bedroom tax, for instance. So, in these particular matters, we definitely aren’t to the right of the Conservatives, as many people like to characterise us; we are actually closer to the left-of-centre parties. Strange but true.

We share concerns over the length of time—[Interruption.]—yes, I’m sure they’re delighted—the length of time taken to make the payments, the fact that joint payments can leave people destitute, and the fact that the direct payment of universal credit to tenants rather than landlords will undoubtedly increase rent arrears. We are also worried over the fairly random application of sanctions that will likely occur, and by the fact that sanctions could be taken against people who are already in work and who may already have two or even three jobs. This kind of thing renders the whole scheme of universal credit rather an abject nonsense, whatever good intentions may have initially lain behind it.

I don’t normally spend much time in here knocking the Conservatives, because there’s enough of that going on from the Labour and Plaid Cymru benches, so it does get a bit repetitive. I don’t want to fall out with the Conservative Members here, who are perfectly amenable people—[Interruption.]—no, I’m not going anywhere; thanks for the suggestion—and, of course, they also now number some of our old friends, like Mark Reckless, although currently absent. [Interruption.] He’s not there.

Mike Hedges AM

Mike Hedges AM

Party: Welsh Labour

I’m not sure he would agree with you

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

He’s not here either, Mike.

To be serious, I’m not sure giving responsibility for the welfare system to Iain Duncan Smith in 2010 was ever really going to be a good idea. This is the chap who turned up in Merthyr not long after his appointment and said, seemingly on the spur of the moment, that it might be a good idea if some of the locals thought about popping down to Cardiff to look for work, when, of course, the reality was that thousands of people from Merthyr and other Valleys towns were already doing that and had been doing that for some years. So, the universal credit scheme overseen by such a naïve blunderer as IDS was never really likely to be a success.505

However, I would repeat that we don’t support Plaid’s objective in getting the welfare system devolved to Wales. We recognise what the Welsh Government has stated on this count: that this would only place a huge, additional spending burden on the Welsh public. So, while we do share Plaid’s concerns over universal credit, we do not share their proposed solution.