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My hon. Friend makes an important point. In Northern Ireland, 33,000 of those who will be affected have two or more children, and the impact is likely to be about £2,500 per year on them. The issue of fairness is therefore important.
The second point that the hon. Member for Spelthorne made was that this was the right time. Mr Clarke argued that the economy is buoyant, but that is not true in all sectors, or in all regions. There are many places where the labour market will not push up wages and where there is not the competition for employers to say, “We will have to hold on to workers by pushing up their wages to the national living wage or beyond.” It is not the right time in many parts or in many sectors of the economy. As the Office for Budget Responsibility has said—as has the Adam Smith Institute, which is hardly a hotbed of left-wing subversives who want to wreck the Government’s policy—the policy will price thousands of workers out of the labour market.
Finally, the safety nets that exist are not there for everybody. For example, the national living wage will not apply to a large group of people in society—to those who are under the age of 25. The new approach to housing benefit will not help those who are in the private rented sector, so they will face housing costs. The childcare costs will not apply right across the board. We will find similar things if we go through many of the other safety nets that the Government say they have put in place. For all the reasons that I have mentioned, this is an unfair change in policy.
Some Members have asked, “What is the alternative?” May I just say that I served as Finance Minister in Northern Ireland, and we had to find 5% cuts in the middle of a financial year, and then 3% cuts every year for four years? There is enough room in a budget of £400 billion to find the changes that are required to fund the phasing in of these kinds of changes. We do not have time to discuss that today, but suggestions have already been made. If this is a policy that the Government want to pursue, the real challenge is to find ways of introducing it humanely, fairly and effectively.