COMMONS

Chair nominations for Work and Pensions Committee

The nominations for Select Committee Chairs ran from 4-10 June and the ballot will be on Wednesday 17 June from 10am to 5pm. On this page you can find the full list of nominees for the Work and Pensions Committee, the Committee Chair will be a member of the Labour Party.

 

Nominated by (own party) 

Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Simon Danczuk, Jim Fitzpatrick, Mr Roger Godsiff, Mr David Hanson, Kate Hoey, Tristram Hunt, Alan Johnson, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Siobhain McDonagh, Mr Geoffrey Robinson, Joan Ryan, Graham Stringer, Ms Gisela Stuart

Nominated by (other parties)

Sir Peter Bottomley, Mr Nigel Dodds, John Glen, Sir Edward Leigh, Mr Bernard Jenkin

Statement

To maximise the influence of the Work and Pensions Select Committee it is crucial that the Chair is able to steer the Committee to being able to agree unanimous reports.

Any criticisms we make must be based on evidence. At the same time we must seek to extend what is legitimately thought by voters as the agenda for welfare reform.

Members of the Committee will obviously decide its programme. But here are my starters for four.

The safe arrival of benefits is crucial if millions of families are going to be able to manage their way without further help:

  • The Committee must therefore seek to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to yield improvements in the delivery of benefits. Indeed, if the Department could set itself the goal of delivering benefits promptly, and move toward a fairer system of applying sanctions, then the numbers of people needing to go to food banks would be halved. The gains to poorer people from making progress on this front are therefore huge.

A second area of work for the Committee is to maintain a critical watch on the development of Universal Credit:

  • The Committee should therefore seek to strengthen its ties with the National Audit Office (NAO) so that its reports are based not only on evidence from the frontline, from what it has been able to glean in questioning and research, but also the sheer weight of research reports the NAO can deliver.

We now know how effective early intervention can be if we are to prevent poor children from becoming poor like their parents.

  • The Committee should therefore work jointly with other Committees to scrutinise government policy in this crucial field. If the Committee has one of its aims over time to change life chances as a means of reducing the numbers who are poor, and therefore relieving some of the upward pressure on the Department’s budget, it would need to work creatively with the Education Select Committee on winning reforms on this front. 

The reform allowing people to draw down safely their pension capital has at last been delivered. But there is now a real danger that groups, similar to those who have already ripped off pension savers so consistently over the latter post-war years, will be at it again.

  • The Committee must therefore not only monitor this front but also push the Department to ensure the advisors are independent of the pensions industry, and that its cost (there will always be a cost for free advice) is known upfront and acceptable to those drawing down pension capital.

A last comment: the unexpected is almost bound to happen over the life of this Parliament. An early and regular function of the Committee should be to consider what events are likely to prove the greatest risks for the Department, both where there is an existing policy and where there is no policy at all. The Committee needs to respond quickly and constructively to events.

Biography: Frank Field

Nominated by (own party)

Gordon Marsden, Mr Iain Wright, Nick Smith, Albert Owen, Andrew Gwynne, Yvonne Fovargue, Helen Goodman, Neil Coyle, Mike Gapes, Paul Blomfield, Fiona Mactaggart, Liz McInnes, Luciana Berger, Jo Cox, Mike Kane

Nominated by (other parties)

Stuart Andrew, Ian Paisley, Angus Brendan MacNeil, Drew Hendry, Robert Neill

Relevant interests declared

Trustee, Webb Memorial Trust
Commissioner, Greater Manchester Poverty Commissioner
Member of Child Poverty Action Group

Statement

The work of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) affects millions of people. Most of us, and most of our constituents, have received, or will receive, benefits which are administered by the department at some stage in our lives – whether that’s the state pension, disability or unemployment benefits, or help with the cost of caring. The department’s ability to process and pay these awards accurately and efficiently has an impact on millions of families.

The taxpayer too has an enormous interest in the effective running of the department. Spending on benefits and the state pension totalled £163 billion in 2013/14. And today the department is engaged in a programme of radical and often controversial change – made more complex by a devolution agenda that affects both its social security and employment programmes.

It’s hardly surprising that the debate on welfare is such a hot political issue.

Against that backdrop, Parliament has a responsibility to scrutinise the department’s programmes on behalf of our constituents, to ensure it pays benefits reliably, delivers high quality service, helps maximise employment, and protects the vulnerable. The select committee is a vitally important mechanism that helps to discharge that responsibility, and for ensuring the department works effectively for claimants and for the taxpayer. Equally important is its role in assuring the public of the integrity and value of our social security system.

To do its work, the committee will need to be - and be seen to be – independent, scrupulous, and attentive to evidence. It will need to be robust in challenging ministers and officials, but able to draw out their knowledge and understanding. It will need a chair with a firm grasp of the political, policy and operational issues, the ability to identify and address the concerns the public themselves would raise, to challenge where appropriate, to build consensus, and to press the case for change where change or improvement is needed.

The work of DWP is my “specialist subject”. I was a member of the select committee and the shadow front bench in the last parliament, and gained a reputation for a forensic grasp of the issues. I have been a vocal but constructive critic of the government, in the chamber and outside it.  I have grappled with the politics of welfare for many years as an advocate for a strong and enduring social security system that the public have a stake in, can rely on, and believe in.  I enjoy strong relationships across the House, and my approach to chairing the committee would be inclusive and collaborative. I will always be available to all members of the House who have a view on the work of the committee.

Nominated by (own party)

Mr David Winnick, Meg Hillier, Rachael Maskell, Matthew Pennycook, Kate Osamor, Clive Efford, Pat Glass, Grahame Morris, Gareth Thomas, Louise Haigh, Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck, Ian Mearns, Mary Glindon, Yasmin Qureshi, Debbie Abrahams

Nominated by (other parties)

Graham Evans, Mark Durkan, Nigel Mills, Mark Garnier, Anne Marie Morris,

Statement

I love the work of Select Committees and I believe they often show the best of Parliament. For the past 4 years I served on both Work & Pensions and Treasury Select Committees, which is not something I would recommend. It did give me, however, a unique perspective on certain areas of policy. I dealt with auto enrolment and pension reform on Work and Pensions and pension regulation and the pension industry on Treasury. Serving on both committees showed me the impact of economic decisions right across the spectrum from Mark Carney to the local Jobcentre Plus.

The road to welfare reform and pension reform has been complex and challenging and the challenges continue in this parliament.

Some of the key issues that need to be scrutinised are

  • Full roll out of Universal Credit
  • Full roll out of change from DLA to PIP
  • The Work Programme
  • Changes to Child Maintenance
  • Devolution of many benefits including further devolution of benefits for carers, disabled people and those who are ill, Discretionary Housing Payments, aspects of Universal Credit.
  • Effect of the Benefit Cap
  • Pension Auto Enrolment
  • £12billion of welfare cuts that are as yet undisclosed.

I was lucky to have served under Dame Anne Begg, a distinguished, robust, yet scrupulously fair chair, from whom I have learnt much. I believe on the Work and Pensions Select Committee the need for continuity is compelling, given the continued roll out of reforms. I know the detail of the mistakes made over the past five years and so am very well placed to ensure the continuity of interrogation and challenge. Four fellow members of the select committee have shown their confidence in me by nominating me for chair.
Chairing a select committee requires a very particular skillset, which may be different to those involved in policy-making or working on the front line of opposition. Select Committees do not make policy, but their examinations can certainly cause it to be changed.

It is the Chair’s job to ensure that Ministers and the Department are properly challenged and held to account for the development and implementation of policies. Just as important is the ability to fuse the natural and understandable voices of opposition and defence around the horseshoe into a coherent analysis and forensic examination. It is also vital to draw on the experience and expertise of all select committee members to bring collective ownership to the process and added value to the scrutiny role.

Before becoming an MP I was a tax investigator for one of the Big 4 accountancy firms and am professionally trained in negotiation and forensic examination. I also have real life experience of being helped by the welfare safety net and realise its importance in helping families through tough times to get back on their feet.