Redwood gave a pretty extraordinary performance discussing the benefits uprating bill today. Just get a load of this:
http://www.parliament.uk/business/publi ... /343/#c343
I think it would be a good idea for us to start by working out what we agree about, because during debates such as this the House sometimes becomes very tribal. It seems to me that we agree that we hate poverty, and that that is true not just of the Opposition but of the two governing parties. We see poverty as a scourge. We come here to promote and support policies that will make people better off and improve their living standards—of course we do—and today’s debate is about how we can achieve that in very straitened and difficult circumstances.
I should have thought it was common ground that we need to ensure that it is more worth while to work. In order to ascertain whether that is common ground, I intervened on the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms)—who was very eloquent—and he said that that was indeed Labour policy as well as Conservative and Liberal Democrat policy. So we agree that we want to get rid of poverty and that we need to make work more worth while. That is where our Ministers are faced with a difficult dilemma. Last year’s benefits uprating occurred at about the peak of the spike in inflation and so benefit recipients got the 5.2% increase whereas low-paid people working alongside them in their local communities got perhaps 1.7%, if they were lucky—that was about the average. Suddenly, in one fell swoop, people were 3.5% worse off in work than out of work because of the normal uprating.
What the right hon. Gentleman has just said is fundamentally untrue. Just because the percentage rise for someone on £71 a week is more than that for someone on £35,000 a year does not mean that they are better off. Will he correct the record on that point?
No, I am talking about people in very similar circumstances—those either in low-income employment or out of work—where the two numbers are much closer together. They are closer together than any of us would like, because we want it to be that much more worth while for people to work. The hon. Gentleman has to accept that, at the lowest income levels, there was a problem because the benefits went up by much more than the wages. What would the best answer be? It would be for all wages to go up more. The second best answer would be for the prices not to go up so much. But we are where we are and we have to work to try to come up with a fair settlement for the future.
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Also, note Lib Dem 'lefty' Julian Huppert's snivelling.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.