Priorities? Only 14 MPs showed up to debate ‘extreme poverty’ in the UK
MPs were supposed to debate the findings of a United Nations report on ‘Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in Northern Ireland’ on Monday, but the House of Commons remained almost empty as the debate got underway.
Labour MP Liz McInnes, who did show up, accused the Conservative Party government of showing disdain towards the poor and said that the United States had shown similar disinterest when the UN highlighted poverty there.
“I know that we have a special relationship with the United States, but I think it shames us all that we share that disdain,” McInnes said.
UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty Professor Philip Alston said in November that the level of poverty in the UK risked causing damage to “the fabric of British society” and accused the Conservative government of favoring policies that compounded poverty levels in one of the richest countries in the world. The report said that the level of child poverty in particular in Britain was “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster.”
Alston said that while the British government focuses on an impending exit from the European Union, it has treated poverty as an “afterthought” — an accusation which seems to be supported by the minimal attendance at Monday’s debate.
There was no sign of Theresa May or even new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who sent a junior minister in her place.
The debate was hosted by Labour’s Shadow Minister for Children, Emma Lewell-Buck MP, who said that 14 million people across the UK live in poverty — one fifth of the population — and accused the government of inflicting “degradation, shame and harm” on the poorest in society.
Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson said the government would consider the report “seriously” but added that it does “not agree with all the points” made by Alston.
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