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Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:29 pm on 20th July 2015.

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Photo of Oliver Dowden Oliver Dowden Conservative, Hertsmere 7:29 pm, 20th July 2015

I am afraid that I cannot, because I am subject to the time limit.

We concluded that it should not be possible to earn more on welfare than a person who had gone out and worked every single day could earn after tax. We also concluded that it should not be possible to leave school and immediately start claiming benefits. I think that those are fair principles, and I think that principles are better than mere salami slicing.

All this has given rise to a need to change the measure of child poverty. It was absurd when Gordon Brown spent huge amounts of time and money showing people one side or the other of an arbitrary line. We are looking at more fundamental principles and measures of what drives poverty. Living in a workless household is one of the biggest drivers of poverty, and I think it right to take account of the massive reduction in workless households that has taken place under our Government. Lack of educational attainment is another huge driver of poverty. I know that such opportunity-based measures are dismissed by Opposition Members—including, as was clear from his speech,. Stephen Timms—but I think that they are vital if we are to establish whether we are merely putting a sticking plaster over poverty, or addressing the fundamental causes.