Attacked at PMQs over foodbank use rises in the Hastings constituency held by Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Theresa May maintained: “welfare should be fair for claimants, but also for taxpayers.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn directly referenced an 80% rise in demand at the foodbank serving Hastings – with benefit delays and sanctions among the drivers.
Accusing May of pitching poverty as the price worth passing for welfare reform, Corbyn called for an end to the benefits freeze.
May fell back on her customary retort of work being the “best route out of poverty”, chiding Corbyn for Labour voting – on a point of principle – against measures to ‘improve’ Universal Credit such as the taper rate and seven day wait being cut as an alternative to pausing its roll-out.
Corbyn turned the ‘work’ argument back on May.
“It clearly is not working, because people doing two or three jobs have to access food banks. The just about managing, are not managing anymore,” said Corbyn.
“Child poverty is up, pensioner poverty is up, homelessness is up, manufacturing is in recession, and austerity is not over – people in low income are getting poorer while the rich getting richer,” he said.
In response, May said welfare should be “fair for claimants, but also for taxpayers”, and cited “absolute” child poverty as at a record low as the lowest earners had their “fastest pay rise for 20 years” under the national minimum wage.
Corbyn hit back to accuse Tories of opposing the principle of the minimum wage, taunting May to intervene to ensure staff working in government departments get the London living wage.
He said: “This month (Amber Rudd) admitted universal credit is driving people to food banks – does (May) think rising poverty is a price worth paying?”
The session also saw Lib-Dem Layla Moran compare the latest figures for homeless deaths with arrests under the Vagrancy as a reason for ending the Act.
May said a relevant minister would meet with MPs working on ending the Act.