Lords debates impact of budget on people in poverty

23 July 2010

Four new Members gave their maiden speeches in the House of Lords on Thursday 22 July in a debate on the impact of the budget on people in poverty

They were Lord Shipley (Liberal Democrat), leader of Newcastle City Council; Lord Boateng (Labour - pictured), former chief secretary to the Treasury and former minister for Home Affairs and for Health; Baroness Donaghy (Labour), former president of the TUC and former member of the Low Pay Commission; and Lord McFall of Alcluith (Labour), former chair of the Commons Treasury Select Committee.

Lord Boateng

Lord Boateng raised his concern about impact of the budget on young people 'at risk' and the voluntary organisations that serve them. He said the 'big society' context in which the budget was introduced must live up to its name, and expressed his fear that aspects of the budget work against the state empowering and enabling 'citizens to make a contribution, to come together to care, and to form sustainable and cohesive communities.'

Lord Boateng called for the review of the office of the Children's Commissioner, which is currently underway, to be 'answerable to Parliament' and ‘have a specific remit to examine all budgets' and whether they lead to children and young people at risk being further disadvantaged.

Baroness Donaghy

Baroness Donaghy spoke of her experiences as a founding member of the Low Pay Commission and about the impact of low wages on poverty. 'Poverty is not a north/south or even a regional phenomenon. The largest proportion of low-paid workers, in terms of population, live in London and the south-east,' she said.

Baroness Donaghy also spoke about the 'extremes of income' in the UK calling for more research on why 'we are a relatively low-wage society'. The inclusion of 'paid overtime – mainly done by men – and City bonuses' to reach the figure of £24,000 a year average earnings 'completely distorts the real situation,' she said.

Lord Shipley

Lord Shipley's speech focused on the impact of 'deprivation of experience and of aspiration' caused by poverty on future opportunities for children. He said 'personal enrichment through education remains the key to social mobility' and that employment and skills matter. He spoke about his experiences as leader of Newcastle Council, outlining a young dad's project supporting young men to develop their parenting skills, increase their literacy and numeracy, and improve their skills for work. 'Reducing the number of children who grow up in poverty will increase the number of young people with chances to succeed as adults. That success will increase the life chances of their children and in turn promote a cycle of aspiration,' he said.

Lord McFall of Alcluith

Lord McFall of Alcluith referred to the recent Treasury Committee report warning of the 'increasing risk that Britain will slide back into recession, and of the coming austerity hurting the poor disproportionately.' Pointing to evidence given to the committee contradicting the Treasury's description of the budget as 'progressive' he said, 'When you dig deeper, you find that the Chancellor's statements have been focused only on the next two years, to 2012-13, but beyond that experts say that the cuts in housing benefit and disability living allowance along with in-year changes to tax credits will hit the poorer half of households harder than they will the rich.'

Lord McFall called for detailed and continuous scrutiny of the Budget to ensure it serve the interests of  'the poorer and most needy members of our society.'

Further information

The term 'maiden speech' refers to the first time a new Member gives a speech in the House of the Lords. A maiden speech usually takes place during a general debate and is uncontroversial.

Image: PA

More news on: Economy and finance, Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Taxation, Budget, Incomes and poverty, House of Lords news, Members of the Lords, Lords news, Parliamentary business

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