Philip Hammond has blasted the UN report into poverty in the UK insisting that Dr Philip Alston’s findings are “not what we see in this country”.
Dr Alston’s damning conclusion ripped into Universal Credit, welfare cuts and austerity following a whirlwind 12-day visit of the UK last November where he visited foodbanks, schools and more to assess life for the poorest in this country.
Philip Hammond: "I reject the idea that there are vast numbers of people facing dire poverty in this country"
Emily Maitlis: "14 million according to the UN rapporteur"
Philip Hammond: "I don’t accept the UN rapporteur’s report at all"
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) June 3, 2019
The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights described the DWP as creating a “digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse made infamous by Charles Dickens”. He also laid the blame on the government for 14 million people living in poverty.
But Hammond was bullish in his response. He said: “I reject the idea that there are vast numbers of people facing dire poverty in this country.
“I don’t accept the UN rapporteur’s report at all. I think that’s a nonsense. Look around you, that’s not what we see in this country.
“Of course there are people struggling with the cost of living. I understand that. But the point being is that we are addressing these things through getting to the root causes.”
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
One of Dr Alston’s recommendations – for a new poverty measurement to be adopted from the Social Metrics Commission – has already been adopted.
But it is not the first time that the UN’s findings have been rejected.
Mr Hammond, the amount of children living in poverty in Manchester and Salford would fill Old Trafford Stadium. We challenge you to visit the regions and see the dire poverty thousands of families are facing every single day #poverty #Manchester #Salford https://t.co/8ewGXf3wXV
— Wood Street Mission (@WoodSt_Mission) June 4, 2019
Following his preliminary findings in November, newly installed Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd slammed the “extraordinary political nature of the language” used by Dr Alston.
Following the final report, Rudd’s immediate response was to ponder filing a complaint to the UN citing political bias and poor research.
I am a GP in one of the most deprived areas in the UK
Many of my patients live in poverty
Others just about survive on the breadline
Please open your eyes
Your dismissal of UK poverty is insulting https://t.co/Il29vvUYbo
— Doctor MayJay (@DoctorMayJay) June 3, 2019
The UK will be given a chance to respond formally on June 27 when Dr Alston reports his findings to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Whether that will be a refusal to listen or acknowledgement of UK’s poverty problem or a willingness will be another matter entirely.