Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Labour and destitution

11 July 2017

Is Andrew Harrop right to suggest more commissions are needed before Labour can properly focus on the issue of poverty and, I would argue, destitution (Labour has to return to first principles on child poverty, 7 July)? I know that that is a conventional way for Fabians to behave, but is it appropriate now, given that we can agree very quickly on our immediate programme? We are not now simply dealing with poverty as I have known it during my 38 years in the House of Commons. As Patrick Butler made plain (Destitution is back. And we can’t just ignore it, 3 July), we are witnessing the re-emergence of destitution where people are hungry, and go without heating and lighting in their homes, in attempts to defend the roof over their heads.

Labour’s immediate campaign should be twofold. Any new money the party commits should be to reverse the cuts in benefits paid to working-age people. Pensioners have done quite well in recent years, but very much so in comparison with the rest of the population on benefits. When thinking of the next election, we should be very careful about entrenching the gap between pensioners and the poorest working-age families.

Second, we need an action programme against destitution. Free school dinners during the holidays are an urgent requirement. Schemes like fuel banks to give free fuel to food-parcel recipients unable to cook food or light their homes need to be offered by all energy companies. And there is an urgent need to link good food which would be “wasted’ to those who are hungry, together with the help they need to get benefits and chronic debts in order.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead


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