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

Let me try this another way. The people whom the hon. Gentleman has mentioned who are suffering from addiction deserve our sympathy, empathy and solidarity, and they deserve help, but so does the kid at school who is working hard, who has great teachers, but who goes home and sees his parents struggle. The cause of poverty is a simple thing: it is not having enough money. It is possible for the Government to have brilliant programmes in all other spheres and still fail to deal with the wound in our society that means people turning up at food banks and children who are unable not to be hungry during the holidays because they can no longer rely on free school meals.

I simply say to the hon. Gentleman, “Ask yourself this question: if we had dealt with every addiction problem in our country, would that necessarily solve the problem of poverty if wages were still too low and this Government were still hellbent on taking money, year after year after year, out of the welfare state which is there to support the family of that child who is working hard at school?”

What, then, has to change? We have to reassess the contributory principle as it affects families, and we have to decide that in this country we will ensure that families can make ends meet. That is why I—along with a number of other Members and the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown—have set out over the summer to try to establish the principles of a programme that could enable them to make ends meet.

I believe that the programme should look like this. Step one must be to end the policies that are breaking the principle of Beveridge’s welfare state. We know what they are. The two-child limit means that 800,000 families with three or more children who are currently receiving tax credit are at risk. While the Government say that the two-child policy will save them billions of pounds, we know that every child matters—every child counts for something—and that is why that policy cannot be allowed to continue. If it does, we know from all the evidence and the child poverty forecasts that it will drive up poverty for children in this country living in a household with three children or more. If anybody thinks that somehow knowing that the Government are going to punish the third child in a family will help to guide families as to family size, I simply say they have probably missed the fundamentals of reproduction. We do not hold children responsible for the actions of their parents, and our welfare state should not do that.