500,000 more in poverty under Labour

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Indy Politics

The number of people in poverty rose by 500,000 during the first two years of Labour government.

The number of people in poverty rose by 500,000 during the first two years of Labour government.

Government statistics released yesterday showed that in April 1999, 400,000 more pensioners and 100,000 more children were living in households with less than half the average income, which stood at £17,400 per year.

The Liberal Democrats described the figures as "damning" and accused the government of trying to sneak them out on the same day as its annual report.

Steven Webb, the Liberal Democrat Social Security spokesman, said the figures did not even take into account the "derisory" 75p rise in pensions this April. "This proves that the growth in poverty during the Tory years has continued under Labour," he said. "Pensioners in particular have had a raw deal."

Although the Government's document omitted figures for the year it came to power, making comparisons more difficult, an examination of last year's report on below-average household incomes showed little progress had been made.

The number of people living in poverty rose from 10.5 million in 1996-97 to 11 million in 1998-99. Of the extra 500,000, four-fifths were pensioners and a fifth were children.

Publishing the figures, the Secretary of State for Social Security, Alistair Darling, said they showed the depth of the problem the Government faced. "Poverty on the scale inherited by this Government took years to build up. Today's report confirms the scale of the problem we need to turn around," he said.

However, more people of working age were in jobs and that had helped to tackle poverty levels. "The tax and benefit measures announced in Gordon Brown's budgets will lift 1.2 million children out of poverty by the end of this Parliament, putting us on track to meet our commitment to halve child poverty within a decade and eradicate it within 20 years," he said.

The new figures also highlighted a growing gender gap in the jobs market, with most new jobs going to men. While the proportion of men in work rose by 3.1 per cent between 1994 and 1998, to 78.5 per cent, the proportion of women in work rose by just 2.7 per cent, to 65.1 per cent.

Women were more likely to be poor than men, according to new statistics on below-income households, especially if they had children. One-fifth of women were in the lowest income group compared with one-sixth of men. Forty-five per cent of women with children were in the bottom fifth of the income scale, compared with 36 per cent of men with children.