Department for Work and Pensions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:08 pm on 2nd July 2019.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 2:08 pm, 2nd July 2019

The hon. and learned Lady will know that I believe in the pooling and sharing of resources across the United Kingdom. If the Scottish Government have found evidence that there is a way of aiding children that can work, I will be learning the lessons, but I firmly believe that the way the United Kingdom’s welfare state pools and shares resources is the most powerful tool that we have with which to tackle the child poverty that worries me today.

We know that the projections for child poverty over the next few years are a disgrace. We will see it rise to record highs, and if we do not make a decision and do something about it, it could affect more than 5 million children by 2024. I do not know about you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am not prepared to stand by and see the welfare state that this country has built over many years fail at that level. I am not prepared to see the contributory principle that says that we pay out to people in need so that they can pay in when they can, become fatally undermined by the growing wound in our country that is child poverty.

I should like all Members who are present today to ask themselves a simple question. On the basis of the purpose of the welfare state and the principles by which it operates, is the DWP’s current spending a success? We all know the answer to that question. It stares us in the face when we think about what is going on in our own constituencies, and the people whom we see in our surgeries. It stares us in the face when we walk through the doors of the House of Commons and see the destitution, and when we know that a person died on our own doorstep. It stares us in the face when we hear from the Trussell Trust that last year it handed out 1.6 million food bank parcels.

My right hon. Friend Frank Field made exactly the right point. Do we think that there were 1.6 million incidences of fecklessness? Do we think that there were 1.6 million incidences of people being so unable to deal well enough with their lives that they had to turn to food banks and beg for help? Do we think that there were 1.6 million incidences of error, or mistake, or confusion? Quite clearly not. What we have seen are 1.6 million incidences of injustice and unfairness.