Health, Social Care and Security: 28th June 2017

Anna Soubry
I echo the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison): I have a lot of respect for most of what the hon. Lady says. However, does she agree that no one side in this place has an exclusive hold on the moral things that guide us? All of us come into this place to make life better for all our constituents. The eradication of poverty runs deep to the roots of conservatism as it does elsewhere in this House.

Dr Whitford
If the right hon. Lady had listened to what I was saying, she would have heard me say “UK Governments”. I talked about a period of 18 years, which involves not one but repeated Governments, who have been complacent and not taken action.​

The children who die because they are born into poverty die of low birthweight, chronic illness, suicide, road traffic accidents and—poignantly—house fires. Children who live in poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, cold and damp houses, and chronic illnesses. They lose their chance to succeed at school and to have the life opportunities that a lot of us take for granted.

The number of children living in poverty is now approaching 4 million and is expected to reach 5 million by the end of this decade; that is an indictment on everyone in this House. On average, 28% of UK children live in poverty, but that average hides the inequality across the UK. There are wards in the north of England where the figure reaches the high 40s—nearly half of the children in such areas grow up in poverty. Those children will not have decent life chances—and if we think that money is being saved, we are wrong: we will be picking up the pieces later in their lives when they end up with addictions or in the criminal justice system.

We need to tackle the situation now. The biggest driver of ill health is poverty and the biggest driver of poverty is the decisions that we make. We had welfare Acts in 2012 and 2015, and that was when child poverty stopped falling and started to rise. We need to change the situation. As the Prime Minister keeps saying, we have a responsibility to every single person across this country, and that includes children.