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Child Poverty

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 5 June 2013

5. What assessment she has made of the effect of likely tax and benefit changes on child poverty in Northern Ireland during this Parliament. (157238)

This Government are reforming the welfare system to ensure that work always pays, in order to help lift people out of poverty. About 2.8 million low-income to middle-income households will be better off through the introduction of universal credit.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the relative rate of child poverty, taking into account all of this Government’s tax and benefit changes, will be 6% higher in 2015 than the rate this Government inherited in 2010. Does that not demonstrate that the communities that suffered the most during the troubles are being the hardest hit by this Government’s indifference to poverty now?

The whole scheme of our efforts to reform welfare is about lifting people out of poverty to get them into work and end a cycle of people spending a lifetime in dependency. We are fixing welfare to ensure that work always pays. Unbelievably, the Labour party chose to vote against our benefit cap; the Opposition think that non-working households should be able to get more than £26,000 a year on welfare benefits; someone would have to earn £35,000 to get that if they went out to work.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Social Development has managed to get some flexibility to mitigate against the worst circumstances of welfare reform as it affects child poverty. Does the Secretary of State agree that what would help even more is if we could maximise inward investment as a result of the G8 summit, to ensure that children are lifted out of poverty across Northern Ireland because of private sector investment there?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that some very important flexibilities have been secured by Minister Nelson McCausland, and I know that some good discussions are continuing about further assistance that could be given to Northern Ireland. I absolutely agree that a key way to lift children out of poverty is economic prosperity, which is one reason why the G8 coming to Northern Ireland is very great news indeed. We are looking forward to the event.