British welfare cuts to hit poor Catholics worst, says MP

North of England Labour MP Helen Goodman questions social consequences of budget

Welfare cuts contained in the new budget of British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne (above, holding budget case), which will reduce payments to large families, will disproportionately hit poor  Catholics, a British Labour MP has claimed. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Welfare cuts contained in the new budget of British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne (above, holding budget case), which will reduce payments to large families, will disproportionately hit poor Catholics, a British Labour MP has claimed. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

 

British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne’s multi-billion welfare cuts, which will reduce payments made to large families, will disproportionately hit poor Roman Catholics, a British Labour MP has claimed.

The charge was made by North of England MP Helen Goodman, who questioned the Conservative secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, about the social consequences of Osborne’s changes.

In his budget on Wednesday, the chancellor announced that tax credits, universal credit and housing benefits – but not child benefit – will be limited to the first two children, bar exceptional cases.

Mr Duncan Smith often says his politics “is based on faith”, Ms Goodman declared, insisting that cutting tax credits, in particular, is not “a fair thing to do when that will be concentrated” on large families.

“I know he does not want to look at statistics - [but it will affect] families where children are living in poverty: Roman Catholic families and Catholics from other minorities? Does he understand that every child matters?” she said.

‘Not going into work’

Defending the actions taken, Mr Duncan Smith said there are “far too many families” in the United Kingdom who are “not going into work, living in bigger and bigger houses with a larger family subsidised by the state”.

Meanwhile, “the vast majority” of families in Britain made decisions about how many children they can have and the houses they could live in, argued Mr Duncan Smith, a former leader of the Conservatives.

Surprise and irritation

Ms Goodman’s reference to Catholics provoked surprise and irritation among MPs, with Conservative minister Greg Hands saying Labour “is struggling” to find ways to attack the budget: “Now [Ms Goodman] is claiming it’s anti-Catholic,” he exclaimed.

The influential Institute of Fiscal Studies meanwhile delivered a blow to the Conservatives, saying 13 million families will lose £260 a year – despite Mr Osborne’s decision to increase the minimum wage…

Meanwhile, the tax credit changes could reduce the incomes of 3 million of the poorest families across the UK - including in Northern Ireland - by £1,000 a year.

People on low pay will be the worst affected, said the the IFS’s head, Paul Johnson.

The chancellor of the exchequer defended his decisions: “This is a fair deal - because you’ve got to have a welfare system that’s fair to the people who pay for it, as well as the people who need it.”