The majority of Manchester’s Labour MPs have failed to oppose a bill this week that is expected to make life more difficult for the city’s most vulnerable people. The Manchester Green Party welcomes the decision by two MPs to rebel and is calling on other local MPs to do more to combat the city’s growing poverty.
Manchester has some of the highest levels of child poverty in the country. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which passed its second reading by 308 to 124 votes, has been heavily criticised by academics, charities and campaign groups who say that if the bill becomes law, it will have a detrimental affect to children and families in poverty, young people out of work, and ill and disabled people.
Rather than voting against the bill, the Labour leadership instructed its MPs to abstain on the vote. The bill passed with a majority of 184, precisely the number of Labour MPs who abstained.
Manchester Green Party welcomes the decision taken by Gorton MP Gerald Kaufman and Blackley and Broughton MP Graham Stringer to rebel against the Labour line and oppose the bill.
Unfortunately, Manchester’s other MPs, Lucy Powell, whose constituency has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK, and the newly elected Jeff Smith, were among those who followed their party leadership and abstained on the vote.
Deyika Nzeribe of the Hulme Green Party said:
“If more Labour MPs had rebelled against their party and joined other opposition members in the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, the bill would have been defeated and Manchester’s families in poverty protected from yet more government’s cuts to tax credits, welfare benefits and public services.
“It’s astounding and depressing that the majority of Manchester’s Labour MPs refused to stand up for their most vulnerable constituents. Manchester Central has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the UK and we have an opposition MP apparently afraid to oppose this toxic Tory bill.
“The Manchester Green Party calls on Manchester’s Labour MPs to listen to their constituents, to look at the evidence that these cuts are hurting our most vulnerable citizens and to join the growing opposition in parliament, which is currently being led by the smaller parties. The poor and in need should not be paying for the mistakes of past governments or the financial sector.”
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who voted against the bill, said:
“It's now down to MPs from all parties to look beyond the politics of today’s debate and focus instead on the devastating impact that this piece of legislation will have on people up and down the country.
"Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand.
“George Osborne is playing politics with poverty. Failing to stand up to this regressive Welfare reform would be an utter betrayal of the principle which says that those in need deserve support.”
More than half a million people in Greater Manchester are believed to be living in poverty, with a further 1.6 million at risk. Many are working for low wages and rely on working tax credits to lift them out of fuel poverty and food poverty. The bill will make it harder still for these families to thrive and survive.
The benefit cap is to be lowered to £20,000 and the bill contains a clause that gives the government the right to lower this yet further without consulting parliament. This will plunge large families with high rent costs further into poverty.