Inequality and Social Mobility

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Amber Rudd Amber Rudd The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:58 pm, 12th June 2019

I know that the right hon. Gentleman has been very engaged in this subject. He will be aware that there are many reasons why people turn to food banks. There were some issues with the early roll-out of universal credit in terms of the timeliness of the payment. That has been corrected, and between 85% and 87% of recipients are now paid on time, which compares favourably with the previous legacy system.

Let me now talk for a few minutes about income inequality. Since coming to office, we have lifted 400,000 people out of absolute poverty. Another key fact that I can give in response to the Opposition motion is that household income inequality is lower now than it was in 2010. However, that is not enough for us; we need to build and do better.

Our safety net is one of the strongest in the world. We deliver the fourth most generous level of welfare support in the OECD. In this financial year, total welfare spending will be more than £220 billion[This section has been corrected on 15 July 2019, column 5MC — read correction]. As has been acknowledged by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, thanks to the benefits system overall income inequality has remained stable, even as earnings have increased for the most well paid. That is because we have what the IFS has described as a highly redistributive tax and welfare system. We have deliberately taken action, through the tax system, to ensure that income inequality is reduced.