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I find it hard to believe that any of us, as Members of Parliament who are seen to be compassionate and caring people who represent our constituents, do not have struggling constituents coming to them. A single parent came to me who has had to give up his job because his child is disabled. He has found that he is going to lose the disability element of child tax credit and will be £1,500 a year worse off. He said, “This Government says that it will protect the most vulnerable in society. If they cannot protect disabled children, who is more vulnerable? Who are these people that they claim to be protecting?” Answers are there none.
As I said, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that since 2015, the overall impact of tax and benefit reforms has hit the poorest two thirds of the population. They are the ones who have lost out—the poorest have lost out by a shocking 10% of their income. The only section of society to have gained is the richest third. The only difference the Budget will make to the incomes of the poorest 10% is that instead of their losing 10% of their income, they will now lose 9.8%. I am sorry, but when we are the fifth richest economy, that is just not good enough.
The previous speaker, Alex Burghart, praised the previous Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Ms McVey. Admittedly, she argued for Budget redistribution to people on universal credit, but the increase in the work allowance gives £630 a year to 2.4 million families. That will not make anyone better off: 3.2 million families were due to lose an average of £2,500 a year; now, those families will lose an average of £2,100 a year. The Budget will not make those people better off; it will make them very slightly less worse off.
When 14 million people—a fifth of the population—are in poverty, what do the Government have to say to them? What do they have to say to the 4 million people who live 50% below the poverty line, or to the 1.5 million who are destitute? Are they proud of those figures? Are they proud to meet people like my constituent Billy, who is doing his best? He suffers from a disability and has taken on some self-employed work, with tax credits. He has done his very best and recently took on an afternoon shift with Royal Mail, delivering the Christmas post. He has just found out that when that job ends after Christmas, he will be put on to universal credit. Because of the minimum income floor, he will have absolutely no income whatsoever to see him through until the months when he can work again as an entertainer. What do the Government have to say to people like Billy? How is he supposed to get by? He has sought to do his best and to do what the Government have asked people to do—go out and get a job—but people like him are punished for it.
When 8 million working people are in poverty, that is not a benefit to them. Two thirds of children living in poverty are in working households. Does the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar think that their parents’ employment is a gift? These children are still in poverty. Employment is a benefit only where it can lift a household and children out of poverty.