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The committee must draw on the widest possible pool of experience

3 min read

I would explore options for joint working and take a collaborative approach as chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, writes Debbie Abrahams MP

Delivering support to around 20 million people, the Department for Work and Pensions has a tangible impact on people’s lives. Its work is also central to wider efforts, including those to combat increasing child poverty and address the challenges posed by the fourth industrial revolution and automation as people work for longer.

I believe select committees play an important role in holding governments to account on their policy programmes, contributing to a healthy political system and democracy.

There are significant challenges facing the department, including the roll-out of universal credit, future proposals on the state pension age, support for UK nationals in the EU, EEA and Switzerland after Brexit, as well as support for people in low-paid work and disabled people. All of these need to be addressed by the select committee in this session.

I would seek to hold the Government to account in a fair, constructive and collaborative way. I would ensure all committee members were able to contribute to the select committee’s priorities and help shape the inquiry programme, as well as supporting all colleagues on the committee to develop skills, experience and areas of expertise across the work of the department.

As chair I would recognise and value all contributions, including those of the select committee’s clerks and assistants.

Reliable, trustworthy data and evidence has always been central to my work, and should also be central to the work of the select committee. I believe that the committee should focus on producing robust, evidence-based, timely inquiries which produce workable recommendations for the Government.

“I would ensure all committee members were able to help shape the inquiry programme”

It is also vital that the Work and Pensions Committee is outward-facing, holding evidence sessions across the country and valuing people’s lived experiences.

Committees must also explore options for more joint working and collaboration to fully understand the impact of policies from one department on another. The Work and Pensions Committee should look to identify joint inquiries, collaborating with other select committees on cross-departmental issues.

Having taken a keen interest in the work of the DWP and holding it to account throughout my time in Parliament, I believe I have the requisite experience and breadth of knowledge to effectively chair the select committee.

I served as a member of the Work and Pensions Committee between 2011 and 2015, before shadowing the department from the opposition frontbench as minister for disabled people then shadow work and pensions secretary to 2018.

In Parliament I have also chaired a range of cross-party APPGs including on dementia; health in all policies; and Kashmir, as well as convening the cross-party inquiry into late payments to small businesses.

Prior to becoming an MP, I was chair of a NHS primary care trust and worked as director of a public health research group at the University of Liverpool, advising health ministries across the globe as well as agencies such as the World Health Organisation.

I am committed to working with all members of the select committee to ensure we hold the executive to account and provide a necessary check.

Debbie Abrahams is Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth

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