All 1 Debates between Baroness Flather and Baroness Howe of Idlicote

Welfare Reform Bill

Debate between Baroness Flather and Baroness Howe of Idlicote
Monday 23rd January 2012

(12 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, this is a very strange juxtaposition of amendments, because your Lordships have just had your heartstrings pulled at over children and here is my amendment, which suggests that there should be fewer benefits for children for various reasons that I shall try to explain.

I should like to make two apologies, with qualifications. The first is to the noble Lord McKenzie of Luton, who said that he did not want to hear about this matter again in this Chamber. Well, I am sorry, but he will have to. I would also ask him, with respect, to look at what is going on in Luton, since it forms part of his territorial designation. There are a lot of things to be looked at in Luton and I hope that he will do so.

My other apology is to Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, because I mentioned only them in my Second Reading speech. I did not mention many white families or many single mothers; nor did I mention the Somalis. There are people in this country who have many children, and it is innocent to think that they would keep having those children were they not helped by the benefits system. They might not stop having children, but they would certainly not have as many if they were not sure of getting the money to look after them. It is extremely important that children are brought into this world because they are wanted and not because it is convenient, because you get a bigger house and because you get more money, which it is absolute nonsense to think is not happening. Your Lordships are kind but also very innocent if you do not know what is going on in this country.

One of the reasons why I moved this amendment is the support I have received from ordinary working people. I have had so much mail—e-mails and letters—asking me to suggest that benefits should stop after two children, not after the fourth. They say, “We cannot afford to have more than two children; we are working and can just about manage. We care for our children, we care about their education, we care about their future and it upsets us greatly to see others having seven or eight. Would these people continue to have so many children if the state did not provide for them?”. It is a matter that should be seriously considered. The cap will take care of some of that, and I am pleased to say that it is time that it did so. I know there are many noble Lords, especially on the opposition Benches, who are against the cap and believe that we are moving in the wrong direction, but we have made this a country of people who rely on handouts and it is about time we stopped.

I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Freud, talk about role models. There are no role models in families where there are six or seven children. There is no one who has worked and no one is expected to work. A lot of those parents do not even know which school their children go to; they do not know what they are doing at school. We have large numbers of young unskilled people, especially in places such as Yorkshire and Lancashire, and especially the boys. It is the boys we need to worry about; they need to be skilled and to attend courses that will teach them basic skills such as plumbing, electrics or carpentry; they must become skilled at something. They are neither educated nor skilled and they have no future. They will not work, their children will not work either, and it is very important that the cycle is broken at some stage. If we are to listen to people in this country, the sooner this happens the better it will be. Working people are fed up with the way some people manage to live on benefits.

In my Second Reading speech, I pointed to one other area that is not in this amendment: people being given money to pay for their drugs. That is disastrous. If you give money to people for drugs, why would they want to work? They are disabled because they use drugs, but they get money to buy their drugs, so why would they ever want to get off them and return to work? We are talking about getting people into work and I think we should look carefully at every area.

There is also a huge rise in polygamy in some Pakistani families. I was interviewed about this amendment on the radio and during the broadcast one man said that he had three wives. The interviewer asked him how he managed and he said, “On a rota basis”. I am afraid that a lot of men have more than one wife. The latest fashion is to go to southern Spain, cross over to Morocco and bring back girls. They marry according to Sharia law and the wives live as single mothers in homes of their own. We need to look at what we are doing to this country. How do they get away with it? They have three or four wives and they presumably visit them—as this man said—on a rota basis. This should not be happening. We do not need this kind of behaviour in this country.

Some people seem to think they have no choice when having children: that they just have them. Children are a choice and a responsibility. They need to be looked after and they need to be brought up. Not only that, there has to be fairness between those who work and those who live off taxes. This drastic situation calls for action. I hope the Government will take action and discourage people from having large families unless they are in a position to look after them.

I was privileged to receive a letter from the Prime Minister two days ago. I wish it had arrived earlier. It states that this issue will be looked at under the provisions of the cap. I knew the cap was coming but I did not know exactly what was likely to happen. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions but he did not reply. However, I sent a copy to the Prime Minister and he did reply—I felt very privileged by that—and he has put my mind at rest about the issues that are important to the people of this country.

The sooner we tackle this kind of disadvantage—and it is a disadvantage for these children—the better. If you have five children, and even if you get benefits you do not look after them and do not give them education, they are disadvantaged all the way through and they will never work.

I leave your Lordships with two comments that you might like to think about. First, the recent British social attitudes survey is very much against the benefits system. There has never been so much disquiet about the benefits system as there is this time. Secondly, the last time the children being born in this country were counted, 50 per cent were born to mothers born overseas. We need to think about that very seriously if we do not want this country to change totally in its attitudes. I beg to move.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote Portrait Baroness Howe of Idlicote
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My Lords, we are back again to groupings and, like the noble Lord, Lord Newton, I am very much in favour of them. Sadly, in this case it has meant that my amendment has been somewhat delayed. If it had been in the first group of amendments it would have been well and truly dealt with by now. However, I am pleased now to be in a group.

I listened with interest to what my noble friend Lady Flather has said and, although I cannot say that my sympathies are in the same direction, nevertheless it is her view that if you are paid less for the more children you have that will lead to a happier lifestyle. She may be right, but I do not agree with that approach.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I did not say that. I said that if people know that they will not continuously keep receiving benefits they might decide not to have so many children, and that if the benefit cap was to come, it would not come as a retrospective.