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Chris Skidmore attacks Labour MPs during his maiden speech for trying to blame the country's current problems on the events of the 1980s as Chris White laments the fact that choosing to work does not always pay

Many of the new intake gave their maiden speeches during Thursday's debate on poverty.

Skidmore ChrisChris Skidmore, who was the first Tory gain of election night when he won Kingswood, expressed his anger at the Labour MPs looking to the past rather than the future:

"Over the past few days, I have sat through many speeches, many of which have been excellent. That is testimony to the talent that many hon. Members bring to the House. However, I have been struck by how many hon. Members opposite have felt the need to blame the present problems facing our nation on the events of the 1980s. What we need is not a history lesson, however inaccurate. The past, whatever our respective views upon it, will not provide us with an answer. We need to look forward and to understand that now, in this the second decade of the 21st century, we still do not have all the answers and solutions needed to tackle the desperate poverty still afflicting many areas of our nation.

"We will only begin to find these answers if we begin to seek to answer the right questions: how is it that, despite billions of pounds spent, in the past 13 years, the gap between the richest and the poorest has widened? How is it that, despite the state taking an ever interfering role in the lives of local neighbourhoods and communities, local people feel increasingly powerless over the decisions that matter in their own lives? And how is it that those men and women who once believed proudly in the value of work and the life-affirming capacity that it brings are being forced to stay at home and claim benefits for fear of losing the welfare on which they have become dependent?

"It is clear that the state and its money are not always the best solution. Poverty cannot simply be measured in pounds and pence. Those in desperate need cannot be measured by a line on a graph. Each has their own problems and concerns that cannot be met unless we, in the tradition of Whitefield and Wesley, reach out beyond our confines and not just listen, but hear, what they have to say. I do not have an answer to the complex problems that I know the right hon. Member for Birkenhead [Frank Field] will attempt to tackle. I merely know that the direction of the previous Government has not worked."

White Chris Meanwhile, Chris White, who gained Warwick and Leamington, lamented the welfare dependency which arises when people find themslves better of by choosing not to work:

"We have a magnificent heritage of industry and manufacture, but the loss of that industry has been a source of rising unemployment and, indeed, poverty. Warwick and Leamington has many pockets of deprivation, and that is why I would rather make my maiden speech in this debate than in any other.

"In 2005 the jobseeker’s allowance claimant count was 884; it is now 2,166. The story of one of my constituents sums up the unfairness that many see in the current system. Having been made unemployed, she claimed jobseeker’s allowance, council tax benefit and housing benefit. As someone who wanted to work, she did the responsible thing and sought new employment, and after much searching she found a job in a nearby constituency, just over 10 miles away. She earned about £120 for a 20-hour week, and with rent of £30 a week and council tax of £12 a week to pay, she was left £11 a week better off. Unfortunately, travelling to work cost her £18 a week, which meant that, unbelievably, she was made worse off by trying to do the right thing.

"At a time when people speak of the need for higher pay and bonuses to attract people in top jobs, surely it cannot be right for people at the bottom to be given no encouragement to move into employment when they see that they will receive no financial benefit from their labours. We need to create new jobs locally. That is easier said than done, but there are reasons for great optimism. Warwick and Leamington has massive potential to attract new and diverse industry and create new jobs, not least in the thriving video games industry and the green economy, which are our particular strengths. Once we assembled parts for the automotive sector. What is to prevent us from using the same skills to assemble solar panels? The seeds of future growth are here, and we must create the environment in which they can flourish.

"The example of my constituent shows that it is not a question of people being unwilling to work; those who refuse to work can be penalised for not doing so. It is a question of making it financially beneficial to people who understand the benefits of working in terms of self-confidence, self-belief and social standing. Last Friday, I visited both the jobcentre and the citizens advice bureau. We must do all we can to reduce their work load and to reduce the anxieties that have been brought on by spiralling debt and crushing welfare dependency."

Jonathan Isaby


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