To the Editor
I am sure readers will not be surprised to hear that it’s been a particularly lively week in Westminster. As MPs returned to Parliament for the first time since the summer break, most of the attention was understandably focussed on my constituency neighbour, Jeremy Corbyn. I congratulate Jeremy on his victory in the Labour leadership contest and I am committed to working with him as our party’s leader.
But there has been a lot going on behind the scenes this week as well. The Government’s controversial Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which implements most of the Tories’ promised £12 billion worth of benefit cuts, has now come back to the House of Commons for committee stage. This is where the real fight begins, and as a member of the committee which has been tasked with scrutinising the Bill line by line, and considering amendments, I’ve been fighting these cuts in the trenches.
The committee began by taking evidence from expert witnesses, a process which the Tories transparently tried to hijack by bringing in a former adviser to Iain Duncan Smith to talk about how wonderful the Bill was, without acknowledging the obvious conflict of interest, which I was more than happy to point out to her. The Tory MPs on the panel also showed how completely out of touch the party is with working people in central London.
One Tory claimed that anyone earning a £34,000 average salary wouldn’t get benefits. But the truth is that it’s recognised within the welfare system that a family couldn’t afford to live in central London on that amount alone, and would need to top up their income with housing benefit and tax credits just to have enough to live on.
The committee has now begun considering amendments to the Bill, and I have already tabled 16 amendments myself, mostly on the benefit cap, to try to remove those parts of the Bill that are most damaging to mixed communities like Islington.
I look forward to continuing the fight against these reckless cuts and standing up for the values of tolerance, diversity and fairness, which make Islington a truly special community to live in.
MP for Islington South and Finsbury