DWP Secretary attacks Labour’s plan to scrap Universal Credit

DWP Secretary Therese Coffey's speech at the Conservative Party Conference in full.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the new Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Conference I’m delighted to be here in Manchester for my first speech as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. 

“Let me tell you that there are a lot of unexpected things that have happened to me very late on a Saturday evening. But taking a phone call from the Prime Minister to become a cabinet minister was certainly a new one.

“Conference, it is such an honour because my Department does so much to help people.

“And I pay thanks to my ministerial team in leading this work. Justin Tomlinson, Mims Davies, Will Quince, Guy Opperman and Baroness Stedman-Scott, and our whip Leo Docherty.

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“Conference, being at DWP means so much to me because I grew up with Labour taking away job opportunities.

“Yes, my parents, both teachers, were sent their redundancy by Derek Hatton’s Militant-run Liverpool council in the 1980s. Yes, those notices sent by taxi.

“I watched our country, glowing in confidence and success under Margaret Thatcher, and thinking: why was this all being ruined for us?

“Why would anyone choose the politics of division, jealousy and deprivation instead of embracing endeavour, aspiration and hope? I am asking that question again today. 

“We need to stop Jeremy Corbyn and his cronies seizing the levers of government. They would destroy opportunity, drive up unemployment and –– make you pay for it all with unprecedented tax hikes.

“Labour has left office every single time with unemployment higher than when it entered.

“So let me ask you: who really is the party of the worker? Over 1.1 million businesses have been created since 2010.

“And 3.7 million more people are in work – with over three quarters of those being full-time permanent jobs. Including

“Just in Greater Manchester alone, there are 158,000 more people in work. 

“These are more than just figures. They mean the dignity of work, the security of a regular wage and the pride and self-worth of making a success of life.

“Conference, our welfare reforms are based on these key principles. That people want independence from the state, not dependence on it. That people want to be resilient and not reliant.

“And we will ensure you are better off in work than if you don’t work – unless you cannot work, in which case we will protect you.

“Universal Credit provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society. It supports strivers, who are not content living a life on welfare.

“We know that work is the best route out of poverty. But Jeremy Corbyn would scrap our benefits system that makes work pay. With no alternative – from the Party that only knows how to trap people on benefits.

“And just like last time – it’s working people who would end up paying the price for Labour’s incompetence. Instead, our party, the Conservatives, want to increase the incomes of the lowest paid.

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“And since last year working people have benefited from a £1,000 increase in work allowances in Universal Credit providing those in work with a much needed financial boost.

“And workers across the country are receiving a well-earned pay rise – now at 4 per cent – the highest in over a decade – alongside 18 months of real pay growth. 

“Conference, we are not blind to the challenges that face some families. That for some the money coming in does not stretch to cover the costs at the end of the month. 

“And so let me say to you: we are on your side. We will work for you. Because this is a compassionate Conservative government. 

“So my priorities for my Department are simple…

  1. To continue to improve Universal Credit to ensure people get the money they need in a timely manner, are helped into work, and onto an escalator up to better work. 
  2. To help with the cost of living across the country to ensure that people feel secure in their homes and can support themselves financially.
  3. To support everyone in society – especially disabled people – so we all can share in the success and prosperity of this county.

“Which is I have today announced a further £4 million package to support people to find not just any job, but that dream job.

“Conference, you can be sure that Conservatives will support people in their retirement. 

“Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour will hit pensioners’ saving pots through hiking taxes and renationalising swathes of industry – costing pensioners thousands of pounds. Unlike Conservatives.

“Since 2010, we have increased the basic state pension by £1,600 a year. And since 2012, over 10 million people have been automatically enrolled in a work place pension.

“We want to go further. We want to put people in control of their pension pots. 

“We are ensuring the delivery of pensions dashboards so that people can see their savings online and in one place. We will take powers so we can send reckless business owners to jail if they plunder pension pots.

“And for the employees of The Royal Mail, we will make good on our commitments to help them deliver a new pension fund.

“Conference, I want to give everyone the dignity of work and security for those who cannot.

“As Conservatives, we must all strive to ensure that everyone can achieve their potential. And we mustn’t let Corbyn crush business, destroy jobs and trap people on welfare.

“We are the Party of the worker and champions of the vulnerable and we will continue to ensure that everyone in our great nation can make the most of their talents to succeed in life – because as Conservatives that is what we do best.”

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