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Poverty: Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016

Volume 638: debated on Monday 26 March 2018

13. What assessment she has made of the effect of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 on levels of poverty. (904559)

Impact assessments of policies in the Act were published in 2015. Evidence shows that work is the best route out of poverty. The welfare reforms are designed to incentivise people to make the choice to move into work and to give them the tools and assistance to progress.

Does the Minister agree with his colleagues in Westminster Hall last week who were still trying to blame the financial crash of 10 years ago in making it a justification for these reforms? Will he finally admit that the reforms are in fact an ideological smash and grab on the poorest in society by a Government obsessed with rolling back the size of the state?

One of the really disappointing things about the debate on welfare and benefit reform in this place has been the persistent defence of the old benefits system, which was effectively a fraud perpetrated on the poor designed to trap them into being so. I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the fact that in the three years to 2016-17 the number of children living in poverty in Scotland was down by 24% compared with the three years to 2009-10, with relative poverty down in the same period too.

With unemployment soaring at 9.3% in France and 11% in Italy but only at 4.3% in the UK, does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways of staying out of poverty is getting a good, educated job?

Order. The Minister is treating us to a combination of his intellect and his eloquence, and his ministerial colleague, the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman), is engaging in a rather undignified finger-wagging exercise with the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell). It is very unseemly and very unfair on the cerebral Minister at the Dispatch Box. Mr Opperman, Mr Campbell: calm yourselves. Take some sort of soothing medicament and you will feel better.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is exactly right. Time and again when we visit Jobcentre Pluses—I would recommend that people do so—we hear heartwarming, encouraging and inspiring stories of people who have got themselves out of poverty by working and being educated and trying hard. Our entire objective is to give them the tools and assistance to do so.