Social Justice

Philip Hammond 'can't see' the UK poverty brought up in UN report

The Chancellor continued the government’s steadfast refusal to take on Dr Philip Alston’s findings

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”.

The Chancellor told BBC’s Newsnight that he did not accept the report “at all” after it was released two weeks ago.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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