Dawn speaks on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 27 October 2015

Dawn speaks on the third reading of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and raises a number of issues including how many families will be affected by the cuts to tax credits and the governments living wage announcement.

Dawn Butler: On the effect of the cuts, Brent council has produced its own report, which highlights the fact that in Brent 13,600 households and 26,200 children will be affected.

Dr Whiteford (SNP): The hon. Lady makes a useful point. I am aware that Brent is one of the areas where the benefits cap will be particularly keenly felt, but all our big conurbations are affected, especially those where there is a large gap between the incomes of the wealthiest and people who are earning what in any other part of the country would be a decent wage, but in certain parts of the UK is not enough to live on.

I am glad to see that Labour Members have supported amendment 56, which I intend to press to a vote this evening. I shall also address some of the related amendments, 57 to 65, all of which would affect support for those distanced from the labour market, whether under employment and support allowance or universal credit. They would remove the provisions in the Bill that seek to reduce ESA for those in receipt of the work-related activity component.

I want to be absolutely clear that SNP MPs will oppose the proposals in clauses 13 and 14, which are an outright attack on people who are seriously sick, disabled, or living with debilitating long-term health problems. We are talking about people who are so seriously incapacitated that even the Government’s own stringent assessment process has deemed them unfit for work at present. Slashing support for sick people will not help them recover more quickly. In fact, money worries are one of the things that often slow down people’s recovery from serious illness. We have just heard a powerful speech delivered from the Government Benches about support for people who are terminally ill, but sometimes people recovering from illnesses that could go either way need a long time to recover, and they do not always get the support and the sympathy they need.

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Dawn Butler: In the context of people earning more, does the hon. Lady believe that we should take into the consideration the Living Wage Foundation’s report on how much the living wage should be?

Helen Whately: When the announcement on the national living wage was made, the Living Wage Foundation supported it, and I hope that Labour Members can do the same.

Jo Churchill: This is only a minor point, but the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Owen Smith) said earlier that the minimum wage is £6.50, yet it actually went up to £6.70 on 1 October. Knowing how much we are paying people is the first step. A living wage is what we are driving towards so that people have more in their pocket—[Interruption.] At the moment the national minimum wage is £6.70, and we are driving it up to £7.20.

Helen Whately: I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention.

Dawn Butler: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think that the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill) might be inadvertently trying to mislead the House in that the living wage is actually £9.15 an hour, according to the Living Wage Foundation.

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