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Tax Credits

Part of Opposition Day — [7th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 20th October 2015.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 5:15 pm, 20th October 2015

I shall speak on behalf of more than half the population who have not yet been mentioned specifically. The cuts that we are discussing today will have a gendered impact, significantly affecting women much more than men. Capital and wealth continue to be concentrated in the hands of men, who tend to earn more. By contrast, women are most adversely affected by cuts to social security as they have to rely on it more. For instance, women are far more likely to be single parents, and 42% of single parents in the UK live in relative poverty after housing costs. Of those, 90% are women. Women also work as mothers and carers for elderly relatives, and when in work they are more likely to work part-time in the most underpaid, undervalued but important sectors—catering, cleaning and social care.

The Fawcett Society has shown that 62% of workers paid below the living wage are women. The considerable gender pay gap of 19% stubbornly continues. Tax credits are therefore a lifeline for women in low paid work and the women’s budget group has demonstrated that these cuts will undermine advances in gender equality. Although the majority of people gaining from tax credit cuts will be men, who will benefit by £1.5 billion a year by 2020, most of those losing out from tax credits will be women, who will lose £5.8 billion a year by 2020.

The advances made in helping those on low pay are about to be rolled back by a party that claims to represent the interests of working people, but in practice does no such thing. The cuts are not inevitable. They are made off the back of tax cuts for multinational businesses and others, which overwhelmingly benefit the most affluent. May I suggest, from the party of Siobhain McDonagh, that if the Government are looking for a compensating saving for ameliorating the situation of the poorest families, they should look at the mortgage tax relief given to buy to let landlords. In the Budget the Chancellor cut it back to the basic tax rate. If the Government want £2 billion more, they should cut it a bit more, help the housing market in London and make sure that poor families and poor women do not lose out.