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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to today’s debate. During the recent general election campaign, I spoke to many families across the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney constituency who were already struggling to make ends meet and, in some cases, struggling to put food on the table or to heat their homes. Since the election, we have heard from the Conservatives that they are on the side of working families and want to make work pay. In recent weeks, however, I have visited food banks in my constituency and seen at first hand how the demand for support from our food banks is increasing, not decreasing. It is also deeply worrying that in many cases, food bank support is reportedly being provided to people who are in work rather than out of work.
If the Government continue with their severe cuts to tax credits and do not alter course, it will cause absolute misery for many families in my constituency and many others areas across the country. These measures have been described as the largest cut to family incomes ever implemented by a Government. Is that an achievement that the Conservative party wishes to aspire to?
We are talking about working families. These are the people whom the Government say they want to help, yet the tax credit cuts would completely pull the rug out from under them, causing misery and hardship on an unprecedented scale. The cuts will mean that work pays less, which will undoubtedly lead to further debt and to families being unable to afford their basic living and housing costs. The cuts will also lead to further direct and indirect financial pressures on local authorities, which are already struggling to cope with massive cuts to budgets and services.
The changes will hit working families, with 3.2 million low-paid workers losing out next year. Information released by Barnardo’s highlights that a lone parent working full time on the minimum wage—the new so-called national living wage—for 37 hours a week will lose around £1,200 a year as a result of these changes, even after accounting for the increase in the minimum wage. That cannot be fair, and these measures will not support working families as the Government say they want to do. The combination of the Government’s public sector pay policy and the changes to the tax credit threshold and the taper will mean that hundreds of thousands of public sector workers will have less income in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 than they do in 2015. Again, can that be fair?
I say to Conservative Members that these measures will hurt working people, particularly the most vulnerable across our country. That will include not only 4,900 families in my constituency but families in all constituencies, including those represented by Conservative MPs. I urge Conservative Members to support the motion, to show that they are truly on the side of working families, and not to condemn more children into poverty.