Speaking in a debate on employment support during the coronavirus crisis, Sir Iain Duncan Smith highlights the flexibility of universal credit to support people in work and calls on the Government to act now and lower the taper, change benefit rates and reduce the waiting time.
I commend my hon. Friend and I agree with him—that is something that the Government should be moving on now, but there is something else the Government could do literally today. Universal credit has three basic levers that can all be pulled now enormously to help people who are in work. First, the taper could be lowered dramatically at this stage, which would push the floor right up underneath people in work at the moment, allowing them to fall back on that if employers cannot deal with them. Secondly, Ministers could change benefit rates, allowing a greater expanse of money to flow to claimants: that could be done today. The third area where my hon. Friend could act is to look at the waiting time and reduce that almost immediately. Those three things were always built into the system for flexibility and they can be done today. They can be delivered within days by a Department that already has the ability to do that while he gets on with the other facilities.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has unrivalled experience in this area. He makes some very reasonable points, and we are looking very carefully at all the options. As I said earlier, when we have decided—very imminently—the Chancellor will make announcements to this House first.