Your Member of Parliament for Harrow East

Andrew Percy MP

Comprehensive Spending Review

On 28th October, Bob welcomed the opportunity to speak during the debate on the Comprehensive Spending Review to debate the important issues of benefit reforms and the future for Equitable Life policyholders.


Bob expressed his concerns that after 13 years we still have a situation where many are more financially secure whilst on benefits than when at work. Bob Blackman MP said: “We have heard much from Opposition Members, and from people outside the House, about housing benefit, which is one of the benefits that need fundamental reform. It is horrendously complicated. It is paid on a daily basis, with tapers which mean that if people obtain work they immediately lose the benefit. It has therefore become a positive disincentive to work. The principle that we are adopting as a Government is that it should always be better to work than to receive benefits. I strongly support the cap and, indeed, the gradual withdrawal of housing benefit from people who refuse to work [...] It is currently proposed that the housing benefit cap should apply to people paying £20,000 a year in rent. That is £35,000 in pre-tax income. Given the other benefits that claimants are likely to have accrued, they would have to earn a salary of about £50,000 before they would replace their lost benefit income. If that is not an incentive not to work, I do not know what is. We must change the whole philosophy of housing benefit, and the basis of its operation. A system that taxes people with one hand and gives them benefits with the other cannot be right. It is far better to lift people out of taxation-as this Government have done-and give them more of their own money to spend as they wish than to tax them and give them benefits at the same time. We have an opportunity to simplify the whole process. I strongly support such action, and I hope that we will move rapidly to a form of universal benefits rather than the horrendously complicated arrangements that existed under the last Labour Government. I trust that they were the last ever Labour Government.”
Whilst recognising the need for welfare reform Bob made very clear that the Coalition Government must ensure that there are indeed jobs in the private sector, with the relevant training available for applicants. Bob had declared his support for the Work Programme.

Bob also continued in his support for Equitable Life policyholders. Bob applauded the work that is being done to reward trapped annuitants and urges Ministers to continue in this good work.  He made it clear that the Government should be doing all that it can to ensure the best possible outcome for those retired pensioners now living in relative poverty. In light of his work as the Co-Chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders, Bob expressed his delight that the Chadwick recommendations have now become defunct to be replaced by the independent recommendations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Bob will continue to work to ensure that. The Government announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review a commitment to a compensation budget of £1.5 billion; whilst this sum goes well above that offered by the previous Labour Government, Bob Blackman MP has asked that “as the economic times get better, improvements come, we create more jobs and the economy recovers, our Treasury colleagues consider putting more money into those policyholders, so that they are properly rewarded for the pain that they have gone through under the last Labour Government. That is only right and just. I trust that we will see that happen in the not-too-distant future.”


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