Stewart Jackson: I’ll continue to lobby for Living Wage

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph -
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One would think that the Labour Party, in the wake of its election defeat, would fight shy of exaggerated claims of doom and gloom, such as we saw in the Peterborough Telegraph last week by the party’s defeated candidate in Peterborough, this time on the so-called “increase” in child poverty. When will they ever learn?

The number of children living in relative poverty has actually fallen to 2.3 million - its lowest level since the 1980s. Levels of inequality in the UK were lower in 2013/14 than in any year under the previous Labour Government, mainly because the richest fifth of the population are paying a lot more and the poorest are receiving on average £10,000 a year more from the State than they pay in taxes.

The figures, released by the Department for Work and Pensions, said the average household income in 2013/14 before housing costs remained unchanged from the previous year at £453 a week, meaning that 2.3 million children lived in households with incomes less than £272.

Unfortunately, the facts collide with their propaganda. When we talk about the need for reducing welfare costs and dependency, we need to proceed on the basis of facts and not scare stories. Labour is unable to do this as too many too many of their “core vote” are welfare dependent recipients, which is why even their acting Leader Harriet Harman has had to back pedal on supporting this Government’s reduction in the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 – a policy strongly supported by a majority of voters.

Even the definition of child poverty has been attacked as ‘dodgy’ by influential Labour MP Frank Field. The former Labour welfare minister has said the measure – which ministers are preparing to scrap – was ‘perverse’. According to the definition, poverty appears to go up when the economy is doing well and go down in a recession. It was at odds with most people’s experience and understanding of real poverty in their lifetimes.

The fact is that work is the best way out of poverty, too. The jobless rate in Peterborough constituency has fallen to 2.9% and youth unemployment has been slashed by two-thirds in the last five years. That said, I hope that a job with at least a Living Wage will soon be the norm and that companies will see the benefit of paying a decent wage to their own staff. I will continue to lobby for the Living Wage.

This government will take tough but courageous decisions in the next few years on welfare and they are long overdue. Dependency is falling, inequality is improving and wages are outstripping prices.

Getting families into work is good for them, their communities and our country and is a moral imperative and on this issue I back the Government 100%.

Really, what is compassionate about leaving our fellow citizens dumped on welfare?