There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.
Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.
Green said his tenure in the department would be different from Iain Duncan Smith, his predecessor before Stephen Crabb, who quit over his distaste for disability benefit cuts. “I am different from Iain – I will use different language,” he said.
“But I know we both share the desire for increasing social justice, by which we mean … that you don’t just measure it by the benefits bill, you measure it by the help you are giving those individuals.
“The commitment that the prime minister has made since she took office has been that obviously we will meet the previous commitments we’ve made,” he said. “But there will be no new search for cuts in individual welfare benefits.”
Green added: “You’re right that the period of austerity meant that tough decisions had to be taken across the board, not just in the welfare system. There are things that have been announced that haven’t yet been introduced but people know that they are coming. But no new cuts.”
Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, an 11-time Paralympic gold medallist, was among those who spoke out in the House of Lords against the controversial welfare reform bill, which proposes to cut disability benefits by £30 a week.
The work and pensions secretary said the government’s overall attitude to welfare had not changed but appeared to acknowledge there had been some mistakes, including people being wrongly assessed as fit for work. “The simple thrust is making sure work always pays,” Green said.
“Obviously there are individual cases where it looks as though the system is not working and we look at all those individual cases very hard. I think you need a system of assessment and it’s a case of continuous of improvement. Of course, nobody wants an inhumane system.”
On the perceived gap in the help the government gives to young people and pensioners, Green said: “I absolutely accept that we need to look over time at the area of intergenerational fairness but I do think we should step back from this view that we’re being too generous to pensioners.
“Because all these things are very long term and if we look over the long term, pensioner poverty in the 1980s was 40% of pensioners, it’s now down to 14%; that’s an enormous beneficial social revolution.”
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