Naomi Long said: “It is both profoundly disappointing and hugely frustrating that, despite widespread support for the need for welfare reform, and even for the broad principles behind the Government’s proposals, that the Government have been unable to develop the detail and deliver the assurances required to achieve a broad consensus on their welfare reforms.
“This Bill has far reaching consequences for the welfare and benefits system and will impact on all of our constituents: it is arguably the biggest shake-up of the welfare state since its inception. Despite this, much of what is intended, even at the conclusion of the Third Reading, remains poorly defined and the detail will only be made available in regulations to be laid by the Minister and not in this Bill or any subordinate legislation. That reliance on as yet unpublished regulations has made it difficult to get the kind of clarity necessary to fully assess the cumulative impact of these reforms creating huge uncertainty and stress.
“The Government has asked us to trust them on the detail; however, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions at Third Reading, again attempted to peddle the myth that people are divided into two rigid and distinct groups, namely: hard-working, hard-pressed tax payers and those on benefits. I would trust the Government more on this issue if he had acknowledged the fact that a person may, at different points in their life, fall into either or even both categories. Hard working, hard pressed tax payers can get seriously ill, they may acquire a significant or permanent disability, they can lose their jobs or their homes. In the context of the debate today, which dealt with such sensitive issues such as the support proposed for people with sudden on-set conditions, such as cancer or stroke, or who have significant disabilities, for him not to have done so is deeply disturbing and erodes rather than builds trust.
“The hope must now be that the House of Lords will amend the Bill to address the valid concerns expressed by Members on both sides of the House about some key aspects and also get the clarity and reassurances on those many areas that still remain worryingly vague.”