Conservatives rapped over ‘unfair Britain’ claims

Child poverty experts have rapped the Tories over their claims that Britain has become more unfair under Labour.

The Child Poverty Action Group said a Tory dossier, published yesterday, contained a “dodgy” claim that there were 900,000 more people in severe poverty than in 1997.

The figure, cited from a study by think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies, was based on a measure of 40% of median income after housing. But CPAG pointed out that the IFS itself had stated the measure for severe poverty was “highly unreliable”.

Thatcher and Major years

The charity said that if the measure was applied to the Thatcher and Major years of government, it would show that the number of people below the poverty line rose from 1 million in 1978 to 4.9 million in 1997 – a rise of nearly 500%. By contrast, the rise under the Labour government was about 20%.

CPAG’s head of policy, Dr Paul Dornan, said: “It’s important that severe poverty is not just a political football with more spin than a Beckham free-kick. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, whose data the Conservatives have used, has previously warned the party it is not a viable measure. It is also a political risk for the party to use a dodgy measure, according to which poverty increased under the last Conservative governments.”

But he added that unfairness was “at the heart of Britain’s shameful record on child poverty” and applauded the Tory’s new focus on unfair taxation, which left the poor paying more than the rich.

Super rich elite

“Our politicians must make a clear pledge to voters that unfair taxes will end. There are 2 million children in working families living below the poverty line. Why should their parents pay more of their hard-earned wages in tax while today’s super rich low-tax elite gets special treatment?” Dr Dornan added.

The Conservatives’ 19-page report, Unfair Britain, argues that the gap in life expectancy in Britain between rich and poor was “at its widest since the Victorian era”.

Today, shadow chancellor George Osborne will blame a decade of Labour’s “top-down state control policies” for creating an unfair Britain and set out the Tories’ plans for tackling inequality.

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