It is always a pleasure to hear from the hon. Gentleman, who is always a very friendly face. Sadly, however—I feel bad doing this—I do have to correct him on two of the points that he mentioned. He stated that the poorest people will not pay any tax at all. That is simply not the case. Of course, they will pay—[Interruption.] No, no—he said “any tax”. Let us be clear: of course, large numbers of very badly off people pay a lot of value added tax, which is a regressive tax, even with the exemptions that apply to it.
In addition to that, increasing numbers of low-income people across this country are now paying council tax, many of them for the first time, because of the swingeing cuts that the hon. Gentleman’s Government have delivered to local authorities’ budgets for council tax relief. So we now have very large numbers of very-low-income people being taken to court because they are unable to pay their council tax. That situation is novel in our country but some might say it approximates things that happened back in the 1980s, which I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is too young to remember but which the history books have certainly not forgotten.
We also need a thorough understanding of how the failure to tackle tax avoidance affects our different regions, given that austerity’s impact on incomes has been strongest in areas that were already struggling economically. We need a thorough impact assessment of the impact that the failure to deal with tax avoidance is having on child poverty. Yesterday Ministers tried to deflect attention from their record on poverty by using only figures on absolute poverty. They never speak about the measure that is instead used by most academics and experts—relative poverty—because they know that more children are now living in relative poverty under their watch: almost a third of children, in fact. The problem is such that the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group has described the Conservative Government as being “in denial” on child poverty.
I will explain why we need to look at relative poverty. We should not look simply at whether people are destitute, as measured by absolute poverty, even though, sadly, many are having to resort to food banks for bare necessities; we also need to look at what people’s incomes are in relation to the living standards that everyone else enjoys. That is why the concept of relative poverty measures whether people are poor in relation to median-income people. Relative poverty matters because it shows whether people can afford to live a decent life.