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Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford): I thank the right hon. Lady for giving way, but she knows perfectly well that her "new deal" for lone parents has been a complete shambles. She knows that 75 per cent. of lone parents contacted by the Benefits Agency did not even bother to respond, and that, on all the estimates, much fewer than 5 per cent. of lone parents who are currently on benefit have returned to work. Indeed, some estimates put the figure as low as 1 per cent. Will the

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right hon. Lady give the House her own estimate of the number of lone parents who will find jobs as a result of the programme? What is her target?

Ms Harman: I do not need to give the House my estimate of the number of lone parents who will find jobs as a result of the new deal for lone parents. We have spent up to £1 million on an independent evaluation--by Social and Community Planning Research--of the additional number of lone parents who are in work and off benefit as a result of the new deal. The interim findings show that there are more lone parents in work than there would have been without the new deal, and that, if the new deal had been operating across the country--beyond the eight pilot areas--a further 10,000 lone parents would have been in work, and not on income support, as a direct result of it.

The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) presented me with a number of figures, which were mentioned on the radio by his hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green. Let me tell the House what Social and Community Planning Research said about those figures. It said that the hon. Gentleman's figures were


Mr. Quentin Davies rose--

Ms Harman: If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene again, I will give way to him.

Mr. Davies: At least the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) were figures. The right hon. Lady seems to be incapable of setting any targets, or coming up with any figures. Her response to me just now involved a double evasion. First, she shuffled off responsibility for evaluating the worthwhileness of her programme on to some so-called independent agency; secondly, she--who is responsible for the expenditure of public money in this regard, clearly has no business plan, and clearly has not worked out in her own mind what kind of public expenditure--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

Mr. Davies: She has not worked out what kind of public expenditure is worth budgeting--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must take his seat when I am on my feet. His intervention has been too long.

Ms Harman: The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) has just astonished the House with his commitment to lone parents--a commitment that he did not find it possible to voice during all the years when his party was in government, and which he has mentioned for the first time during its time in opposition.

In fact, I did give a figure. If the new deal for lone parents had been working nationally beyond the eight pilot areas, an additional 10,000 lone parents would have been in work and not on income support. The new deal is making a real difference.

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I am immensely proud of the work of our personal advisers. Although not highly paid, the staff are highly motivated, and have worked with determination, sensitivity and initiative. I am grateful to the Opposition for giving me an opportunity to place on record the great debt that we owe to the pioneer personal advisers. Most are women, many are mothers and some are lone mothers themselves. They have changed the face of social security, and their work means that today more lone parents are now in work and off benefit than would be the case otherwise.

Let me also place on record our thanks to lone parents organisations such as Gingerbread and the National Council for One Parent Families. Unlike the Opposition spokesman, those organisations care about lone parents; unlike him, they know what they are talking about. They helped to design our new deal for lone parents, and to design the training for our personal advisers. Above all, however, we need to recognise the lone parents to whom being a good mother means providing for children as well as caring for them. Such parents want to work not only to give their children a better standard of living than they could provide on benefits, but to show them that life is about work, not just about dependence on benefits. They want to work because--like other mothers--they know that they can contribute to society by working, as well as by rearing children.

Lone mothers who have found work through the new deal are, on average, £39 a week better off than they were on benefits, and their benefit dependence is reduced by £42 a week. They are better off, and the taxpayer is better off. That is the approach of welfare to work: a hand up, not just a handout. The new deal for lone parents will become national in October.

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): Laying aside all party-political broadcasts for a second, will the right hon. Lady tell us whether she would genuinely regard it as a success if her programme led to 1 per cent. of lone parents returning to work?

Ms Harman: I will not set targets. I have said that we will set targets once we have received the final result of the evaluation. No Government acting sensibly set targets before they have completed the pilots and the evaluation.

Mr. Duncan Smith: With respect, the right hon. Lady just said that she would not set targets, but she has given a figure of 10,000, and she is talking about a 1 per cent. figure. She is going national, without any idea of where the success lies. If she is going national--if the process is no longer experimental--she must surely tell us what the target is. Is it 1 per cent.?

Ms Harman: The 10,000 figure was not a target; it was what Social and Community Planning Research findings showed would be the number of additional lone parents in work had the new deal been extended nationally. The body also says that the size of the difference has increased gradually over time, and can be expected to continue to increase. I have said that we will set our target when we have the full results of the evaluation.

This is welfare reform in action. The working families tax credit will help to make work pay even more forlone mothers; the national child-care strategy and the

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child-care tax credit will make it even easier for lone mothers to work by ensuring high-quality, affordable, accessible child care for all; and family-friendly employment policies, including extended maternity leave and reformed maternity pay, will help women and men to combine their work and family responsibilities. The hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green made a good deal of my comments about statutory maternity pay, but his Government never reformed the statutory maternity pay system--a system that leaves the lowest-earning one fifth of women without the cover provided by statutory maternity pay.

I have made it clear that fathers, as well as lone mothers, have a responsibility to their children. The reform of the Child Support Agency--a policy ably developed by my noble Friend Lady Hollis, which I announced to the House last week--aims to ensure that fathers pay for their children. Our child maintenance premium will ensure that, for the first time, 700,000 children will be £10 a week better off through their fathers' maintenance. That, together with our unprecedented increase in child benefit, will make children better off, and will strengthen fathers' parental responsibility.

Let me say to the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends that, whatever the hon. Gentleman says--for all his puff and bluster, and his jousting with figures--he knows that this is modernisation for good, and that no Government will ever go back on the system that I have created.

We are also modernising the welfare system for people with disabilities. Most disabled young people in my constituency, and their mothers, tell me that they want the same as everyone else. They want to work like everyone else, to take pride in their work, to make friends at work and to earn their living at work. They want to contribute to society, not just to take. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I, with finance from the windfall levy, have extended the new deal to the long-term sick and disabled. That is welfare reform in action.

That has four strands: active advice and support for those seeking work; taking the disincentives to work out of the benefit system and extending to the disabled the incentives formerly available only to the registered unemployed; making work pay for those whose earnings are depressed by disability; tackling discrimination with tough new standards for employers, and giving employers incentives to extend opportunities to people with health problems or a disability.

In October, we begin the first of 12 pilot projects to offer, through jobcentres, personal advisers along the same lines as the new deal for lone parents. Those pilots will cover 250,000 people on incapacity benefit, who are among the many hundreds of thousands of people who were written off by the previous Government to a life of dependence on benefit. However, we know that it is in the voluntary sector that there is great expertise in helping people with disabilities and health problems, so we are awarding grants to partnerships of voluntary organisations and employers to pilot ways in which to help disabled people to get and stay in work.

This Thursday, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I will announce the 10 successful bids for the first tranche of partnerships. Our approach is to provide the opportunities and support for people who want to work to do so; the social security system that

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I inherited denied sick and disabled people those opportunities. Worse, to get the unemployment figures down, the Tories encouraged people off unemployment benefit and on to incapacity benefit. Classifying them as incapable of work solved the problem of the Tories' rising unemployment figures, but it increased the number of workless households, and wrote them off to a marginalised life on benefit.

About 1 million people on incapacity benefit are capable of at least some work. Under the Tories, if they took a risk and got a job, they were punished if it did not work out: they could go back on benefit, but be up to £40 a week worse off than when they were previously on benefit. Therefore, I have changed that, so that, if their job does not work out within the first 12 months, people can go back to the same rate of IB that they left. That encourages people to move off benefit into work, rather than penalising them.

We are piloting the extension to those on incapacity benefit of the jobmatch payment and the jobfinders grant, which are currently available only to those on jobseeker's allowance. Those on incapacity benefit face the same expenses as those on JSA in moving into work after a long time on benefit, so they should get the same help--the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green and his hon. Friends never supported that. We are also helping people with health problems or disabilities to be much better off in work than on benefit, with our new disabled persons tax credit.

For a disabled person with a child under 11, moving from incapacity benefit to the disabled persons tax credit in work could mean that they are better off by £36 a week, and that their benefit dependence will be reduced by £71 a week. It is a hand-up, not just a handout. They are better off, and the taxpayer is better off. We are tackling social exclusion and investing in opportunity. That is our welfare reform in action.

All that, and the tough stance against discrimination that has been taken by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, amount to a radical programme of welfare reform that recognises for the first time the aspirations of people with disabilities, and acknowledges for the first time that their rights include the right to work.


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