Hereditary peer says some poor families 'ought' to earn more to avoid child poverty

'I have not come prepared with any evidence'

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A hereditary peer who voted in favour of the Government's attempts to redefine the way child poverty is measured has said some families "ought" to try harder to earn money.

Speaking during the debate in the House of Lords -  in which peers eventually voted 290 to 192 in favour of an amendment to that will force the Government to publish annual figures on income-related child poverty - Lord Northbourne said some families preferred a lifestyle dependent on state support.

It was quickly pointed out to him, by the  Earl of Listowel, that two-thirds of children in poverty have at least one parent in work.

The 89-year-old peer and Kent landowner is the fifth Baron of Northbourne and his son, Sebastian James, featured in the Bullingdon Club society’s 1987 photo, alongside David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

Lord Northbourne, who is one of the 90 elected hereditary peers to remain in the House of Lords, said: “On this kind of issue I am usually very much on the side of those who are sorry for those who have problems. But I think a much stronger case would be made if the amendment could be rephrased as to take into account the possibility that, at times, the family themselves ought to do more to create the income that they so desperately need.”

“I have not come prepared with any evidence,” Lord Northbourne added. “But, being involved in issues around child poverty, I hear a good deal to suggest that a number of families prefer to live on benefits rather than go to work. 

“I do not blame them for doing that, but I think they should share the responsibility in providing income which, indeed, is so essential.”

Peers voted 290 to 192 in favour of an amendment to that will force the Government to publish annual figures on income-related child poverty. Ministers had wanted to scrap income-related measures and replace them with other indicators, including the numbers of children living in workless households.

The plans were opposed by child poverty charities, and have been challenged by the respected social mobility commission, chaired by former Labour minister Alan Milburn, which said last month that it was “not credible” to tackle child poverty without acknowledging “the most obvious symptom of poverty, lack of money.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “These measures are the foundation of a new, comprehensive approach to child poverty and will drive effective Government action. Today’s vote in the House of Lords is a routine part of the legislative process and next steps will be announced in due course.

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