Absolutely. We are moving in that direction, but a huge amount of work still needs to be done. The Scottish Government support policies that encourage flexible working and free flexible childcare, to help to tackle the stigma affecting fathers who take on caring roles and to encourage a work-life balance for parents. Embracing flexible and family-friendly ways of working is not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, because it allows employers to retain talented, productive staff. A 2014 study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that a “work from anywhere” culture could add an extra £11.5 billion to the economy.
The hon. Member for Congleton spoke passionately about improving a child’s life chances, and I believe she spoke from the heart. However, she said that family breakdown was the root cause of poverty, whereas actually—statistically—poverty is the root cause of family breakdown, and we must recognise that. While the Government remain wedded to austerity, they can do little to alleviate the real problems that households across the UK face. Of course a low-income household can be a very happy one, but the reality is that anxiety about money can place enormous strain on relationships.
I must also mention the two-child limit on child tax credits, which according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies will result in 600,000 three-child families getting £2,500 less a year, and 300,000 families with four or more children getting £7,000 less. That really will push people over the edge and into poverty. We need to consider what we are doing. The Scottish National party strongly opposes the cap, just as we oppose the removal of the family element of universal credit, which is causing households to fall into poverty. The policy has a particular financial impact on members of faith communities who are more likely to have more than two children and therefore more likely to struggle financially. Is the Government’s intention really to punish people of faith? I believe that all children should be treated equally and that families should be financially supported to raise our future citizens. That can take place only if we value the child from birth and value the benefits that they can bring.
Immigration also threatens families. Every week at my surgeries, I deal with issues related to immigration and family reunion. I will mention two particular cases. One involves a gentleman in my constituency who met his wife while she was working in Glasgow on a short-term work visa. They married, she went back to the States and found she was pregnant. She had the child in the States, but because my constituent is self-employed he has not reached the salary threshold for bringing her here, his wife and their child are still in the States, and they cannot all live as a family. Another of my constituents is a gentleman who met his wife when he was working in Saudi Arabia. She is from the Philippines. They lived for a number of years in the Philippines very happily, but then his father became unwell and so he travelled back to Scotland to look after his father. He described being a “Skype family” for two years, until his son came and joined him. Unfortunately, and again because he is self-employed, he has not reached the salary threshold and cannot bring his wife over. So they are still a “Skype family”, although the child is in a different location.
The policies I have mentioned are very real ones that are causing damage to families all across the UK. We need to think about how we are going to support families. Yes, the intention of this manifesto is good and, yes, there is lots of good stuff in it, but there are also very damaging policies in Britain that are affecting families up and down the UK.
I will conclude there, Mr Bone. I thank you once again and I thank the other Members who are here for allowing me to speak at this point.