The Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown spoke out in the House of Commons yesterday (Thursday 5 September) about the coalition government’s welfare reforms.
Mr Kirby asked: “Will not 3.1 million people, including many in Brighton and many on the lowest incomes, be better off and receive a higher entitlement under universal credit?”
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “That is absolutely true. That is why this programme is worth seeing through and why having the nerve and decisiveness to see it through is so important.
“Of course there were difficulties – I do not shy away from that – but the changes that have been made by my department (the Department for Work and Pensions), the Cabinet Office and external parties will deliver the system on time in order to benefit the very people to whom my honourable friend has referred.”
Earlier in the day Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO), said: “Plans for universal credit were driven by an ambitious timescale and this led to the adoption of a systems development approach new to the department.
“The relatively high risk trajectory was not, however, matched by an appropriate management approach.
“Instead, the programme suffered from weak management, ineffective control and poor governance.
“Universal credit could well go on to achieve considerable benefits if the department learns from these early setbacks and puts realistic plans and strong discipline in place for its future roll-out.”
The government wants universal credit to replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits by 2017.
Ministers hope the change will save £38 billion from the welfare benefits budget by 2023.
Universal credit is intended to encourage people to work by ensuring that they will be better off in a job than on benefits.
The NAO said that work up to the end of April failed to achieve value for money and that £34 million spent on IT (information technology) was written off.