Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:08 pm on 17th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 4:08 pm, 17th October 2018

I will be brief; I have three points to make. First, after listening to today’s debate, I feel that we have been having the same debate every year that I have been in this House. From speaking to more experienced colleagues than me, I know that the debate about tax credits and whether they worked and how they should be changed is one that we keep having. I am happy to discuss the legacy systems, and what went right and what went wrong. We have been doing so for the past decade, but that is not the point.

What we are talking about today—this is my second point—is a fundamental dilemma in our economy. We have a three-way policy choice between employment, wages and poverty. We all want employment to go up and people to be in work, but we cannot expect wages on their own to cover the cost of life. That is what we are seeing at the moment. While wages have not gone up—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench says that that is ridiculous. Well, he should listen and he should go back to the Beveridge report, because exactly that point was proved: if someone has children, if they are sick or disabled, and when they are old, their wages will not cover the cost of life. The welfare state is there to smooth people’s income over their lives so that in periods of high cost they do not fall into poverty.

That brings me to the third part of this dilemma. If the state does not step in to make sure that the welfare state can do what it is supposed to do, work and wages alone will not stop poverty, and that is what is going on. I ask Ministers: how high does child poverty have to go before they step in? [Interruption.] That is not the case. The Government just changed the definition of poverty. Other Members have listed the organisations that have given ample evidence on poverty to Ministers. Unless the state steps in to fulfil Beveridge’s vision and takes account of the cost of having children, we will always see people falling into poverty. That is a fundamental truth of how our economy works.

I leave the final words to my brilliant staff, Jay Glover, Debbie Caine and Rob Buckingham, who have seen food bank use in my constituency go from nothing to a situation now where it is rife. At the end of every month, there is a spike in demand for food bank vouchers, and they are left dealing with the mess that universal credit is creating. Unlike my hon. Friend Dan Carden, who is a good friend of mine, we in Wirral South never expected to see food bank usage rife in our area, which is more mixed than his, and yet here we are with this pain and stress every month, and this Government, I am afraid, are to blame.