MP calls for action to tackle inequality

Reporter: Alex Carey
Date published: 13 May 2016

OLDHAM MP Debbie Abrahams has told fellow MPs that inequalities across society today “hark back to the Victorian age”.

MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, Mrs Abrahams ­— Shadow Minister for Disabled People delivered a speech in Westminster Hall during a debate on social security.

She said: “The International Monetary Fund has said income inequality is ‘the defining challenge of our time’. In the UK, 40 years ago, five per cent of income went to the highest one per cent of earners; today, 15 per cent does.

“But this issue is about not just income but wealth.

“If we think back a few weeks to when the Panama papers were published, they revealed the shocking extent to which the assets of the richest are kept in offshore tax havens, where tax is avoided and evaded.

“In the past year alone the wealth of the richest 1,000 households in the UK increased by more than £28.5 billion. Today, their wealth is more than that of 40 per cent of the population, which is equivalent to 10.3 million families.

“As the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown, last month’s budget left people on low and middle incomes proportionately worse off as a result of tax and social security changes.

“Regressive economic policies where the total tax burden falls predominantly on the poorest combined with low levels of public spending, especially on social security, are key to establishing and perpetuating inequalities.

“It is the people on low income, the sick and the disabled who have been hammered by this government.

“I have met many sick and disabled people since I was elected in 2011. Some are barely surviving and are hanging on by their fingertips. I genuinely fear for them. Of course, we know that many have not survived and have taken their own lives or just faded away.”

In her speech Debbie described the range of cuts in social security support sick and disabled people are facing ­— more than £30 billion by 2020. She also spoke in detail about the Personal Independence Payment (Pip) process the government introduced in 2013.

She spoke about how constituents in Oldham East and Saddleworth, who have been through the Pip process, described it to her as a “degrading and humiliating” experience.

Mrs Abrahams said: “Governing is about choices.

“The revenue lost to the Exchequer every year as a result of tax fraud is equivalent to what we spend on disabled people through DLA and Pip — £16 billion. If the government truly believe in fairness and in addressing the real inequalities in this country, they need to reflect that in their policies.

“The government needs to clamp down on tax fraud and ensure that our most vulnerable in society are looked after properly, not plunged into poverty or worse.”

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‘INEQUALITIES hark back to the Victorian age’ . . . Debbie Abrahams MP

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