In an opposition day debate called by Labour on the government's plans to cut tax credits, Anna shared one of many letters she has received from constituents concerned about the impact.
There are 4,200 working families with children who are claiming tax credits in my constituency. That is 4,200 families with parents who are working hard, doing the right thing, trying to stay off welfare, proud to be in work with the dignity that that brings, and trying desperately hard to get through the month, keep afloat and provide for their families. They rely on tax credits to survive. Tax credits are not a luxury.
Tax credits were introduced by the Labour Government because we cared about in-work poverty. We cared about making work pay, particularly for single parents who were struggling in and out of a working life. That is why we introduced the historic minimum wage—despite fierce opposition from those on the Conservative Benches—and why we brought in Sure Start to give kids the best start in life. That is also why we introduced tax credits, which have been a lifeline for so many people and contributed to the huge fall in child poverty on our watch.
Tax credits are vital to help people get through the month. As my hon. Friendthe Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) said, we have received a lot of correspondence in the past few days about this issue. Let me quote from one of my constituents who wrote to me this week about her fear of losing tax credits. She stated:
“I am literally terrified at the idea of losing my tax credits. I am a 29 year old single mother of an eight-month old baby. I have been in full-time employment since the age of 17 and even worked as a weekend pot washer when I was at school. Both my parents worked and I have been brought up with a good work ethic and to understand the value of money. I am currently on maternity leave but start back at work in a week. However, after 12 years of working full time I am going back part time for two years so I can also focus on the upbringing of my son…I am anything but a
‘scrounger’ and have never had to rely on the benefit system, but for the next couple of years tax credits will be essential to help me survive financially. I do not drive a fancy car, I don’t have Sky\cable TV, I live in a tiny terraced house and I NEVER go on holiday, so I live anything but a luxurious lifestyle that these idiots in power seem to think”—
forgive me, Mr Speaker, those are not my words, however much I may agree with the sentiment.
My constituent continues:
“I could quite easily go on income support and be a stay at home mum, but I choose to work to distil into my son from a young age that it is important to have a good work ethic (as my parents did with me). I am very good with money but have no idea how I will survive if my tax credits are cut. I have worked for 11 years, paid into the system and for the sake of a couple of years getting something back to help me just make ends meet, I don’t think this is me being a drain on society or a lazy scrounger the Tories seem to think anyone who claims a penny is. I lay awake at night worrying about all this, the Tories say ‘they are the party for working people’ but they make me sick. I have never heard such a bunch of”—
I will leave the rest of it there as it is probably not appropriate.
Obviously, my constituent does not agree with the hubris and self-congratulation that I have witnessed from those on the Government Benches who seem so delighted with their long-term economic plan, and I will say more about that in debates over the next few days. I would love to say that I am looking forward to the Budget tomorrow, but I am afraid that I will do so with fear and trepidation on behalf of many of my constituents.