Cameron casts doubt on universal credit timetable
- 11 Sep
Labour claim that ‘Iain Duncan Smith's promises have been shot to pieces by his boss.'
David Cameron has put the introduction of the government's welfare changes into doubt by saying he was not "religious" about plans to have universal credit rolled out across the country by 2017, reports the Guardian.
Whilst Mr Duncan Smith insisted last week that the change will be in place by its 2017 deadline, the prime minister has said the Department of Work and Pensions was simply "shooting" for that date and it was important that the reforms are introduced correctly.
Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "Iain Duncan Smith's promises on universal credit have just been shot to pieces by his boss."
Just last week Mr Duncan Smith said that he would deliver universal credit by 2017 after a report by the National Audit Office said the £2.4bn scheme had been set back by "weak management, ineffective control and poor governance." However the prime minister told MPs: "The secretary of state was questioned very closely in the House of Commons. That is the department's position - they are shooting for 2017.
"But the key thing is getting the early part of the introduction right. The more you can test out and hold pathfinders and get people on to universal budget and then start to take existing benefit recipients on to universal credit - the more you can get that right in the early years, the more chance you have of hitting your target of total rollout.
"My view is this is a good reform that will make work pay, that is widely supported across politics and other sectors. So we need to get it right. But we shouldn't be religious about timings. We should be religious as it were about the overall concept of what we are trying to do."
Mr Byrne says "No one in Westminster believes Mr Duncan Smith will hit the 2017 deadline he promised - and now it seems the prime minister doesn't believe him either. It's yet one more reason why we need the cross-party talks Labour has been calling for all summer. David Cameron's flagship welfare reform is in chaos."
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