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The Government’s decisions on tax, welfare and spending on public services have benefited households across income distribution, with the poorest gaining the most as a percentage of net income. That is supported by the distribution analysis published by the Treasury at the time of the most recent Budget.
That is nonsense. The UK is already the most unequal society in Europe, and the gap is becoming wider. In order to mitigate the worst welfare cuts and reforms, the Scottish Government are having to pay out £125 million this year alone. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights has said that the situation is “unsustainable”. Does the Minister agree that instead of arguing about tax cuts for the rich, Westminster needs to reverse those welfare cuts?
The United Kingdom is not the most unequal society in Europe; it is not anything like that. The Government’s policies, such as our policies of investing in infrastructure and in boosting productivity, have been designed to level up the parts of the UK that need it the most. When it comes to poverty and living standards, things are improving. Real wages have been rising for 10 consecutive months, and more people are in work. In the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, unemployment has fallen by 60% since 2010.
One way in which the Minister could easily help to raise living standards would be to pay those under 25 the same national living wage rates as those over 25. I know he will not announce that at the Dispatch Box, but will he tell us what concessions under-25s are given in their housing costs, insurance costs and living costs that warrant their being paid less than those over 25?
Our priority has been getting young people into work. In 2010 we inherited a youth unemployment rate of 20%; we have almost halved that. The priority for this Government will be ensuring young people get a great education; more young people are in good or outstanding schools than when we came into power in 2010, and we want them to get apprenticeships and get into work and get on in life.