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I’m not seeking to make a name for myself

3 min read

I want to see influential committees rather than dominant chairs, so I’d only serve for one term as chair of the Work and Pensions Committee

Select committees have changed over the years and are now much more independent, but we should be careful not to think of them as an extension of the opposition.

They’re about joint working and are at their best when they produce unanimous reports, based on a critical examination of the subject with clear and credible recommendations.

I want to see influential committees rather than dominant chairs or alternate power bases. For that reason, I’d only be prepared to serve for one term. There’s a lot of very talented people in this place and I worry about the concentration of power in too few hands.

I want to chair a committee that seeks to understand the policy intentions, examines the impact of implementation and, through sound evidence, highlights any obvious weaknesses.

I’ve served on the Work and Pensions Committee since 2015 and am very familiar with current issues such as universal credit, PIP and the pensions dashboard. There’s still much improvement needed on universal credit but I don’t accept calls to scrap it.

There’s also outstanding work on PIP, targets for disabled people to enter the workforce, and we must get a grip on the pensions dashboard.

I believe pensions will become a more prominent issue in this Parliament, particularly affordability of pensions for young people and the self-employed, who are soon to outstrip public sector workers in number.

There will also be questions about pension guidance and the risks for those who take and spend substantial upfront sums.

“My ambition is to play a constructive part in the development of a modern welfare system”

We need to look again at realistic policies for tackling in-work poverty, affordable childcare for those trying to rejoin the labour market, and preparation for job displacement resulting from the fourth industrial revolution.

My experience of serving on other select committees (Home Affairs 2010-16 and Northern Ireland at the time of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement) has taught me that tact and consideration can be as important a part of the chair’s role as chasing headlines.

My own background in social work has equipped me with a very practical understanding of welfare issues.

During my Parliamentary career, I’ve had the opportunity to experience life in government as a Whip, in opposition as a shadow minister, as a backbencher and as a member of the chairman’s panel.

I’m not seeking to make a name for myself. My ambition is to play a constructive part in the development of a fair and modern welfare system that can address the challenges of the future.

The world of work has changed enormously and is continuing to change. We live in an age of multiple careers where portfolio employment, self-employment and flexible working are increasingly important. Modern welfare must be based on this and not the patterns of the past.

I believe we need to look at new ways to engage with the public about what we do in this place. The committee needs to take more evidence from and visit more locations outside London so that inquiries are well informed and not too reliant on the ‘London experience’.

Steve McCabe is Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak

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