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Child Poverty

Volume 555: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2012

4. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of child poverty. (132496)

13. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of child poverty. (132505)

The Government have protected vulnerable groups as far as possible while undertaking the urgent task of tackling the record fiscal deficit that we inherited. Work remains the best and most immediate way out of poverty, and we have continued to prioritise work incentives through welfare reform and increasing the personal allowance.

The total cost to a two-child family on the minimum wage of the freeze in child benefit, the 1% increase in working tax credit and the VAT increase over four years will be £5,033. The extra tax allowances and the child tax credit will save them only £1,770, leaving them with a net loss of £3,263. How many more children do the Government expect to be in poverty as a result of those cuts?

I know that the hon. Lady cares deeply about the issue and she has done a lot of good work with vulnerable families in the past. She will be concerned, as I am, that under the last term of the previous Government child poverty, as defined by the Department for Work and Pensions, increased by 200,000 to 3.9 million. This Government believe that there should be a relentless focus on the causes of poverty, such as worklessness, so I hope that she will join me in welcoming the fact that the number of people employed today in Britain is at a record high.

He cannot get away with that, Mr Speaker; it is complete nonsense. Will he confirm—yes or no—that people on the minimum wage will be worse off at the end of this Parliament because of the tax and benefit changes than they would have been from the tax savings my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue)mentioned a moment ago? Cuts on child benefit and on working families tax credit will make people poorer: will he confirm that?

I am not going to take any lectures on child poverty from the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]

The right hon. Gentleman was a senior member of the previous Government, who, over 13 years, presided over an increase in the number of workless households to a record 3.9 million. In his constituency, in the last Labour term, the number of youth jobseeker’s allowance claimants increased by 148%. I hope that he will join me in welcoming the fact that such claims are down by 19% under this Government.

May I ask the Minister to confirm that the previous Government’s child poverty targets were missed by 600,000, that according to the latest figures child poverty fell last year by 300,000 and that universal credit will reduce child poverty further, by up to 350,000?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government are relentlessly focused on eradicating poverty and the measures he has talked about, such as universal credit, increase work incentives and help people back into work.

Is it not the truth that the best way to tackle child poverty is to have parents in work? Does my hon. Friend agree that the creation of 1.2 million new private sector jobs, the taking of more than 1 million of the lowest paid out of tax and the abolition of the rise in fuel duty planned by the previous Government make the average family more than £125 better off and does more for child poverty than any scaremongering by the Opposition?

That is right. If we can deal with worklessness, we can help deal with poverty. In the past two years, 1.2 million private sector jobs have been created—more than were created on a net basis by the previous Government over 10 years.

Last month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said that more than 6.1 million people in poverty are in working households. Does the Minister believe that a real-terms cut to in-work support for the lowest paid helps to tackle child poverty and will he agree to publish a child poverty impact assessment alongside the Bill on benefits uprating?

As I have said, we will not take any lectures from the Opposition on child poverty. I used the previous Government’s figures. She talks about workless households, but they increased by 200,000 during Labour’s last term in power and I believe that the policies the Government have in place to deal with the root causes of poverty are the right ones.