Diplomatic Missions: Congestion Charge

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Thursday 23rd May 2024

(1 day, 14 hours ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I am looking at my noble friend to gauge his reaction on impounding cars and using bicycles. It is a novel idea, and perhaps something that might be suggested to whoever is standing at the Dispatch Box in future. In all seriousness, our diplomats—and I pay tribute to our FCDO officials—constantly remind diplomats of their obligations. I pay tribute to the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who was formerly a Transport Minister. She knows all too well that we must keep reminding everyone of the nature of the congestion charge: it is a service charge.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, on 11 July 2005 the US Government said that the

“Congestion Charge is a tax that, under international law, should not be imposed on the United States Government, its diplomatic and consular agents, or its military force”.

So will the Minister renegotiate the Vienna Convention, or will he tell the Americans to use public transport instead?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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We try to encourage all people to use public transport, and that is why the Government continue to invest in it and make the case for using it. I am sure there are many diplomats in London who, when they are not in their vehicles, enjoy the city by using public transport—it is a great way to get around.

Developing World: Debt Reduction

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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As ever, my noble friend makes a very good point. If we look back at the successful programmes that there were, such as the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, we see that they helped, but many of those countries have gone back into debt—although the situation is not as bad as it was before: the debt-to-GDP ratios in very indebted countries is some 60%, whereas it had got to 100%. One of the best things we can do for those countries is to help them to have better fiscal systems so they can raise their own taxes. I know that noble Lords like a Rwanda update: we have been working with that country since the 1990s and helped it to increase its tax revenue tenfold, and its ratio of tax to GDP has doubled from 8% to 16%, the highest in the region. That is a better thing to do in many instances than lending those countries money.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, a major reason for the indebtedness of developing countries is that too many multinational corporations operating in them dodge taxes by shifting profits to low-tax or no-tax jurisdictions. The IMF estimates that around $213 billion of taxes are lost each year. An earlier Prime Minister introduced the Finance Act 2016 and promised that companies would publish a public form of country-by-country reporting so that there would be some visibility of the profits shifted by UK companies, but later Governments never honoured that commitment. Could the Foreign Secretary have a word with the current leaders of the Government and try to revive that commitment?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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I think that the noble Lord refers to what was agreed at the G8 in Northern Ireland in 2013, where a whole series of steps forward were made to make sure that companies were not doing what is known as base erosion and profit shifting and not paying their taxes in countries where they should. To be fair to the former Prime Minister, who is now the Foreign Secretary, we did make some progress, and I think the OECD would say that it has made a lot of progress, but I will certainly check up on the noble Lord’s point.

United Nations World Water Development Report

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 28th March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very important point. We have a lot of partnerships. For example, since 2020 with Unilever we have supported 14,800 healthcare facilities with critical WASH supplies and services. We have trained nearly half a million health and other key workers on hygiene practices to help tackle the threat of Covid in 37 countries. I am afraid I cannot think offhand of such a partnership with one of our water companies, but I know that partnerships are core to how we approach this issue.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, on the theme of water scarcity and quality, can the Minister address two issues much closer to home? Can he tell the House how many new reservoirs have been built in England since 1991, when the population was 47.8 million, compared with nearly 56 million now? Secondly, can he provide data on the damage to human health caused by consumption of seafood taken from UK rivers and seas polluted by the discharge of raw sewage?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, I am afraid I do not know how many reservoirs have been built since 1991. I am sure that another department of government will provide that answer, but I am afraid I have no idea. I suspect that the answer is “not enough”. On the noble Lord’s question about the quality of seafood, to my knowledge the seafood captured by British fishing communities is of a higher quality than we find in most parts of the world. I am willing to be proven wrong if the noble Lord knows otherwise.

Gender Pensions Gap

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Monday 27th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I completely agree that the Government cannot do everything. It just is not possible. The triple lock is being restored for the rest of the Parliament and I think that, in the circumstances we are in, the Government have done a fine job on that.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, under the pretence of equality, the state pension age for women has increased from 60 to 66 but women continue to receive a lower state pension than men. Can the Minister explain why women continue to be treated as second-class citizens? When will the Government give them pension equality?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I think that the gap between women’s and men’s pensions is closing—

Food Insecurity: England

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 7th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an important point. There are many job vacancies, not least in the area we are discussing. This is an area of focus for the DWP and, indeed, for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, the biggest cause of food insecurity at the family level is poverty. Some 22 million adults in the United Kingdom survive on an annual income of less than £12,570. Will the Minister commit to give an immediate increase of 15% to universal credit and the state pension? If not, can he commit to live on £12,570 for a year?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The noble Lord knows that I cannot commit to any such thing, but I reiterate that the Chancellor has pulled together a package amounting to £37 billion specifically to tackle the immediate crisis in the cost of living faced by people in this country. That money will go a very long way to alleviating the suffering of those people at the bottom of the economic ladder in this country.

Cost of Living: Pensioners

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the cost of living increases on recipients of the state pension.

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Stedman-Scott) (Con)
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My Lords, no assessment has been made. The Government are aware of concerns about the cost of living. My right honourable friend the Chancellor is making an announcement on this issue today. Since 2010, the full yearly amount of the basic state pension has risen by more than £2,300 in cash terms. That is £720 more than if it had been uprated by prices and £570 more than if it had been uprated by earnings. State pension recipients are also supported by further measures for older people.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. In 2019, 68,000 pensioners died in poverty. That number will increase, as the real value of the state pension has been cut and another £800 energy rise is coming. Can the Minister commit to an immediate increase in the state pension of 15%? If not, can she return to the House in two weeks and explain why the Treasury is failing to support our pensioners?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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The noble Lord understands that I cannot make that commitment. We understand that people are struggling—we really do—with rising prices of energy and other things. The Chancellor is clear that, as the situation evolves, so will our response, with the most vulnerable being his number one priority. He will set out more details today. All noble Lords and I will have to wait to hear what he says.

Offshore Companies: Property

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, at the risk of repeating myself, they are working to a timetable. For example, Tristan de Cunha, the main export of which is lobsters, is still required under legislation to have a public register; in that particular instance, and for a range of other overseas territories, we are providing direct technical support, working through both the FCDO and the Treasury, and where assistance is needed we are providing it. The bigger territories, as I have said, are actively consulting with industry to ensure that they get their partnerships right and the registers are established in line with the timetable that I have already indicated.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, the UK has legal and moral responsibility for good governance of OTs and Crown dependencies. With that in mind, can the Minister assure the House that the register of beneficial ownership of companies in the BVI and in other territories will at least match the transparency standards applicable in the UK, and that they will all be publicly available?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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That is exactly the standard we are working to with the overseas territories. We are also working to ensure that these are verifiable registers. As we see further legislation coming on increasing the robustness of the UK register, we will also apply the key principles. I agree with the noble Lord: we have a moral responsibility for good governance in the overseas territories and to ensure strong partnerships with our overseas territories’ Governments.

Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2022

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, this debate has been a little time coming but I make no apology for making sure it takes place. Unfortunately, I was unable to take part when the order came before Grand Committee as I was active in the Chamber at the same time. However, I was happy to adopt the Government Whips’ idea of this separate debate on the regret Motion.

In the event, this has the advantage that we now know a lot more about where we are with the increase in social security benefits that will take place in two weeks’ time. The new information is not good. Inflation in February was higher than expected, at 6.2%, and is certain to be even higher at the beginning of April when the benefit increase comes into effect. The effect is spelled out—this is why it is good to have the debate today—in today’s economic and fiscal outlook from the OBR. This states that, because of lags in the CPI uprating of welfare benefits, benefits will fall by almost 5% in real terms. To be clear, the poorest in our society are facing a 5% reduction in their income when they are already in poverty.

Further, the OBR report states that £12 billion is being taken away from poor people and that it will take up to 18 months fully to catch up with that reduction. I could speak at length about what this means for individuals in human terms, but I will simply refer the Minister to the heartfelt contributions made in the Opposition day debate in the Commons yesterday. I urge her to take the time to read that debate if she has not already done so. That is the human cost.

I want to make three additional points, to which I invite the Minister to respond. I shall not dwell too much on the Labour Party’s position on the uprating—I look forward to my noble friend’s contribution from the Front Bench.

First, does the Minister recognise that it is no consolation to people who are already in poverty and suffering a further cut in their real income to be told that it all averages out over time? We are told, in effect, that the loss of income they are facing, and from which they will suffer in the coming year, is not that important because at some point in the future—the OBR estimates it to be in 18 months’ time—they will receive an increase that will make good the shortfall. They are already in poverty, and they will have to endure 18 months of even greater poverty because of a defect in our benefits system. For people in poverty that is simply not good enough. Eighteen months is too late, as even in the subsequent better year they will remain in poverty. They have already suffered the effect of poverty on their lives and they simply lack the resources to even out their income over the years.

The question is what can be done about it. The Minister told the Grand Committee that

“It is not possible to undertake the uprating exercise any later than currently timetabled.”


But she also told the Committee that

“All benefit uprating since April 1987 has been based on the increase in the relevant price inflation index in the 12 months to the previous September.”—[Official Report, 9/3/22; col. GC 484.]


In truth, the seven-month delay goes back even longer. I recall discussing this with the relevant department back in the 1970s. I find this less than impressive. Seven months is too long when inflation can change so rapidly. Despite all the advances there have been in handling and processing data in the past 35 years, it appears that we still cannot do any better.

I quite understand the department’s resistance to making any change, but faced with the suffering caused for the poorest in our society, we must find some way to achieve a closer alignment of increases in prices and benefits. For sure the index we use could be more up to date, and I refuse to believe that this cannot be done through greater use of modern technology. The department simply needs to invest more in computerising its records. I also suggest, more radically, that where an increase falls short, an adjustment should be made during the course of the year when it becomes apparent, plus provision for back pay to cover the gap that has arisen because of the shortfall increase.

My second point is that the resources are there in the National Insurance Fund to pay higher pension increases. We have the advantage on this occasion of the welcome report by the Government Actuary that is attached to the draft order. This tells us that, for the next five fiscal years, the balance in the National Insurance Fund will increase from £53 billion at present to £76 billion in 2027. In percentage terms, that is an increase when expressed as a percentage of benefit outgo from 48% to 55%. It is worth comparing those figures with the 16.7% that the Government Actuary recommends as the minimum fund balance. It is also worth emphasising that that is without allowing for the possible Treasury grant, which is an integral part of national insurance as originally conceived. This can amount to 17% of benefit payments. It is simply untrue to say that the money is not available. It is not that the money is not there; it is that there is a political choice not to pay.

I had the benefit of a letter this morning from the Treasury Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Bybrook—the other Baroness Scott—referring to the Government Actuary’s quinquennial review, which was presented to Parliament last week. In her letter, she states:

“Increasing spending on today’s pensioners would pass the costs onto future generations of taxpayers.”


Well, I would welcome an opportunity to discuss the quinquennial review, and perhaps the Government Whips would provide the time. However, given the limited time available this evening, I say simply that the review, while commendable, tells us only part of the story. Taking the figures from the OBR, along with those from the Government Actuary, there will be the resources available in 2085 for everyone to be better off, even if national insurance contributions reach the level suggested in the Government Actuary’s report.

My final point relates to the triple lock. How much credence can we give to the Government’s repeated promises to keep to the triple lock for the basic state pension and the new state pension? On Monday in the Commons, after some confusion on the part of the Secretary of State, she said:

“I am again happy to put on record that the triple lock will be honoured in the future”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/22; col. 99.]


But she said the same thing back in 2020, and subsequently broke the promise. The Minister here made a similar commitment in Grand Committee. The truth is that we already know that this Government are prepared to break their promise to maintain the triple lock, which was given voluntarily in the election manifesto and subsequently repeated by the Prime Minister.

The explanation given by the Minister here when this was discussed in Grand Committee was that

“setting aside the earnings link in the state pension triple lock for the year 2022-23 … was in response to exceptional circumstances”.—[Official Report, 9/3/22; col. GC 475.]

The problem is that we do not know what counts as the exceptional circumstances in which this Government will break their promise again. On this occasion, with the current uprating that we are talking about, we are told that the exceptional circumstances are the effect that coming out of the Covid measures has had on the earnings index.

So the question is not whether the Government will break their promise. We know that they are capable of breaking their promises. What we do not know about is the possibility that they will break their promise for further exceptional circumstances.

We simply cannot rule out the possibility that, come next November, when a decision is taken on next year’s uprating, it will be decided that this coming September’s CPI index is exceptional or anomalous. To be honest, with the prospect of it being more than 8%, according to the OBR, I hope that it is exceptional. I return to the OBR report and the nice graph—I cannot show it to noble Lords because that is against the conventions of the House—in which there is a leap up to the September figure, when it could be in excess of 9%, which is exceptional. What promise can the Government give that they will not say that these are again exceptional circumstances?

To conclude, can the Minister give us an unequivocal commitment, now, that whatever the CPI increase in September—8% or 9%—this will be applied to the 2023 increases?

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Davies of Brixton, who spoke with great passion and eloquence to put the Government to shame for the plight of our senior citizens, who continue to be treated very badly.

The state pension is the main or only source of income for the majority of our senior citizens—they rely upon it. The Government introduced the triple lock but, despite it, pensioner poverty has actually increased; it has not decreased. The statistics show that many of our pensioners continue to suffer. From next month, the pension will rise by 3.1%. Pensioners and others face RPI, not CPI: try buying broadband and you will be told that the price will increase by RPI-plus, not CPI. People face increases in line with RPI, which is already about 8%. Last October’s Treasury Red Book showed that by suspending the triple lock the Government were denying retirees £30.5 billion over the next five years. That is a vast sum. They will never be able to catch up or make good the lost purchasing power.

The Government do not treat our senior citizens with any equity or respect. The winter fuel payment has been unchanged since 2011. Even before the current rises that are coming our way, the winter fuel payment would have had to double simply to cope with price rises and rates of inflation—the Government never increased it. A Christmas bonus was the grand sum of £10 in 1972. If it had kept pace with inflation, it be about £150; it is still exactly £10. The Government removed the free TV licence from the over-75s. It is no good saying that there are some who will still qualify for it if they negotiate the bureaucratic maze; many will simply not be able to and will either pay or volunteer to go to prison, because the Government want to criminalise avoidance of the TV licence fee. At least some of our senior citizens will get warmth and some food there, and some may well take up that particular option.

The Government still do not like people getting old. There are no prescription charges in Scotland, but the Government here are raising the free prescription age from 60 to 66. Why England has to be an outlier, I do not know.

In the last Budget, the Government handed £4 billion of tax cuts to banks. They took money away from pensioners and instead gave it to banks, which are absolutely awash with cash. Banks offer you a measly 1% interest on your savings and charge you 40% on your overdraft, but they are bailed out by the state, which acts as a lender of last resort. If that were not enough, it also handed £895 billion of quantitative easing to speculators, including banks, which made vast profits from that. But the Government do not want to pay our senior citizens a decent pension. That is a huge wealth transfer, which tells us something about the Government’s value system.

--- Later in debate ---
Separately, our internal management information suggests that the number of new claims for pension credit was 30% higher in 2021 than 2019. This is an encouraging development, although the impact of these claim volumes on successful awards and pension credit take-up will take longer to establish. We have more to do to encourage people to take up pension credit—
Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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I raised a point about equality, although perhaps the Minister was coming to it; I am not sure. The Government have equalised the state pension age for men and women, but women’s state pension languishes behind men’s. Why is it not equalised? Can she undertake to give a date by which that will happen?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I cannot undertake to say if and when that will happen, but I will write to the noble Lord and place a copy in the Library with any updated information that I can glean.

The noble Lords, Lord Sikka and Lord Shipley, raised a point about pensioner poverty. Absolute pensioner poverty, both before and after housing costs, has fallen by 200,000 since 2009.

International Women’s Day and Protecting the Equality of Women in the UK and Internationally

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Thursday 17th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate—I have learned quite a lot—and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I am glad that she referred to education because my background is the world of business schools. The language there is entirely male and aggressive. Accounting and finance are all about domination, control, slicing, selling, asset-stripping and plundering. Nobody cares if workers are fired and have no home to go to at the end of the day. None of that ever comes into any accounting calculation. Nobody ever considers the social impact of redundancies, wage reduction and tax avoidance. However, women are more concerned about nurturing, supporting and growing things. There is a stark difference. Women who enter business schools are increasingly forced to leave their feminine selves outside and behind. That is fundamentally wrong. Women need to be valued in their own right in what they bring, not in how they compare to men. That requires fundamental thought. I hope to return to this issue another day in another debate.

I note that the Motion says

“that the Grand Committee takes note of International Women’s Day and the United Kingdom’s role in furthering and protecting the equality of women”.

I wonder what had happened to equity—where is it? Equity is very important too. Without it, many people will never attain fairness and equality. In many ways, equity and equality are elusive. They are always in the process of being made but they never finally are because of many social divisions. That requires constant vigilance, new approaches and searching to deal with social problems. I would have preferred to see equity mentioned as well.

We are in a strange scenario where we have more women in government than ever before yet women’s economic progress seems to have stalled or is slowing down. That is a paradox. I wonder whether women in government are increasingly asked or forced, perhaps unconsciously, to adopt male objectives rather than the female approaches to which I referred earlier, such as growing, nurturing and supporting. Again, that needs to be looked at.

Life expectancy has stalled, if not gone into reverse. Life expectancy for women has now declined, according to ONS data, from 83.6 years to 82.6 years. Inevitably, the poorest women are most negatively affected, yet the Government are doing incredibly little to reduce poverty. If anything, inequalities have increased. More people live in poverty than ever before—14.5 million. That was even before the pandemic, the situation is far worse now.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 promised an era of equal pay for equal work but that remains elusive. Women’s median hourly rate is 10.2% less than men’s. The latest statistic we had from the Government on the gender pay gap for full-time and part-time employees was 15.4%. Why are we yet to reach a goal that we set ourselves 50 years ago? What exactly are the Government doing? I know that we will hear about the many things that the Government are doing—X, Y and Z—but the facts as indicated by the data pose this question: has enough been done? Why has enough not been done?

We are referring here to women, but, of course, women are not a homogenous category. They are differentiated by age, class, disability, ethnicity and many other social factors. Black women are the least likely to be among the UK’s top earners. They face the double hit of gender and ethnicity, which is why I referred earlier to equity. What can we do to lift them up? They are the most underrepresented group in the top percentiles of income in the UK. Some progress could be made by mandatory ethnicity pay reporting but the Government are vehemently opposed to that. It is hard to see how progress on the ethnicity pay gap can be made when the Government accept the principle of gender pay gap reporting for women but not on the basis of ethnicity. That does not help many women; I hope that the Government will revisit it.

Low pay for women results in low occupational pensions, low contributions and, eventually, low pensions. This condemns them and their dependents to poverty and insecurity, especially in later life. We have 1.25 million retired women living in poverty. The Government’s response is to cut the triple lock on the state pension, which pushes even more people into poverty. Again, that is unsatisfactory. The state pension for women is always less than for men, according to the statistics published by the DWP. Why does it have to be less? Of course, over the years, women may pay less in, but is that the only way we are measure somebody’s value—that they have paid less in so they get less out? Is there no other basis on which to think about it, such as humanity, decency, morality or ethics? The two should really be equalised. The state pension for women needs to be lifted up and should be at least as much as what is given to men.

The Government publish all kinds of budgets—we will have the Spring Statement next week—and lots of other legislation but they are never really accompanied by a gender impact assessment. What is the gender impact assessment of what the Government propose in a budget? We struggle to see it. I raised this last year, when I got a lot of soothing noises from Ministers—I have also raised it at other times in the House—but there have been no developments whatever. We now have income tax being hiked by stealth and national insurance contributions being increased as well, but there is no gender gap analysis. Who will suffer the most? What about single mothers? Will they really suffer the most? The answer, possibly, is yes but absolutely no attention is paid to that.

In his Budget Statement last October, the Chancellor used the word “women” just once in his speech but there was not even one gender-specific policy to help women—not one. However, there was a policy that would hurt women: the cut in universal credit of £1,040, affecting 4.4 million families. The Government took back £4 billion from the poorest and gave it to the bankers. Many of the households affected by that are led by single mothers but no help was given to them at all; they are basically condemned.

There is a gender division of labour in our society. Many women are confined to low-paid jobs, whether in teaching, nursing, social care, supermarkets, hospitality or other sectors, yet the Government have imposed a wage freeze. Again, they hurt women the most in pursuit of their economic objectives—although I have never really understood what those objectives are.

The take-home pay of many women has declined as a result of these austerity policies and wage freezes. They are therefore prevented access to nutritious food, good education, healthcare and other essentials. There is again a gender issue here.

We have a paradox: a female worker in social care or a supermarket is getting paid and will pay extra national insurance of 1.25 percentage points, but a speculator speculating on how much economic surplus those individuals will generate will not pay anything from the capital gains made from those speculations. They will not pay any national insurance, never mind the extra 1.25 percentage points. Who are the winners? Who are these speculators? Mostly, they are men. At the very least, the Government could see that the gains picked up by men through speculation are shared with women on whose backs they are made. I see no analysis of or sensitivity to these gender issues in the Government’s policies.

There is no equity or equality of tax treatment of earned and unearned income. That again has gender consequences, because women in low-paid employment are paying taxes at a higher rate than those who are making money through other sources, such as dividends or capital gains. Again, the analysis shows they are predominantly men. Government policies have also condemned many to use food banks; again women suffer, because they are on low pay.

Take just one more example. We have an increase in homelessness all around us these days. You see it as you enter Tube stations and other places. Two-thirds of homeless Londoners living in temporary accommodation are women, so 42,000 women are homeless in London alone. Of the homeless households living in temporary accommodation in London, 39% are headed by a single mother. Many are homeless because of domestic abuse or poverty, or they cannot afford to pay rents because their income is low and the tax system does not do much for them. Unaffordable housing is a key factor and women bear the brunt of housing policy failures.

The cost of living crisis, on top of cuts to universal credit, housing benefit and sexist policies such as the benefit cap, makes it much harder for women and their families to keep a roof over their heads. The Government can help by reversing the damaging welfare cuts and increasing all benefits, at least in line with inflation. That would help to reduce homelessness among women, single mothers and their children. By building high-quality homes with rents linked to local wages, not what the landlords want, the Government can prevent more women becoming homeless. Let us celebrate this year and I hope the Minister makes some positive promises in return.

State Pension Age

Lord Sikka Excerpts
Tuesday 18th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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As I have said many times, I cannot give any guarantees, but I am absolutely sure that the points my noble friend raises about flexibility and age will be included in the review. I urge her to take part in that consultation.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, poorer people tend to die at a younger age than richer people. Each increase in the state pension age effectively results in a wealth transfer from the poor to the rich, who will receive the pension for many more years. Can the Minister tell the House why the Government have pursued pension policies that penalise the poor and transfer wealth to the rich? Why this reverse socialism for the rich?

Baroness Stedman-Scott Portrait Baroness Stedman-Scott (Con)
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I doubt I will be able to convince the noble Lord, but nobody wants pensioners to be in poverty and nobody wants to run a book on transferring wealth from one place to the other. The noble Lord raises a valid point. I know I am repeating myself, but it is one that I expect will be in the review; knowing how much knowledge the noble Lord has, especially on how to pay for these things, I look for him to have input into the review.