It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Helen Whately.
I rise to oppose new clause 1, and I do so for these reasons. If any Members were so inclined, they should please come and visit my constituency of North Dorset. If they visited North Dorset, they could easily be forgiven for thinking that everything in the garden was rosy. There are pretty villages, attractive market towns, lush fields, healthy-looking cattle grazing and a strong local economy where unemployment is virtually zero. If Polly Toynbee or Peter Dowd were to arrive in North Dorset and say to me, “Simon, would you take me to your most deprived ward?” I could not, because I do not have one, but I know that I have pockets of deprivation and of poverty in each village and market town in my constituency.
One of the big challenges facing any suite of financial policies is recognising that poverty manifests itself in various ways and guises, but right the way across our nation. It is, I would suggest, far easier to identify large pockets of urban deprivation and poverty. The real public policy challenge is also to recognise and address those of rural poverty, often in sparsely populated areas where the instinct—maybe it is part of the rural community DNA—is slightly to shy away from asking the state, either local or national, for support and to demonstrate a strong sense of resilience and smaller communities trying to work together, although that is no excuse for any Government to shy away from focusing like an Exocet on trying to deliver policies that help to address rural poverty.
I am motivated by this every day. I know the figures move around, but the average national salary for the UK is in the region of £24,000 or £24,500 per annum, as I understand it. In North Dorset, when I was first elected in 2015, the figure was £16,500 and it has just risen to about £18,000, but rural jobs always pay less, if people are in the agricultural sector, food production or the hospitality trade. In those rural areas we do not have those big, high-paying employers. That is why we should always focus on trying to deliver support.