The Yorkshire Party has won international backing for its move condemning the Government for policies that have raised the level of poverty in the UK.
Party Deputy Leader, Chris Whitwood, received unanimous support from the European Free Alliance’s General Assembly, on regional inequality and poverty in the UK
The Yorkshire Party is a member of the EFA, which is the international umbrella organisation for political parties seeking greater self-determination.
The Party’s resolution was composed in response to the report by Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, published last year, which found that one-fifth of the UK population lived below the poverty line and 1.5 million people were destitute (unable to afford basic essentials).
The motion was supported unanimously by 29 member parties who were present.
Chris Whitwood at the General Assembly meeting
Chris asked the General Assembly, meeting in Brussels: “What is the purpose of a state? The 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill postulated the role of the state was to ensure liberty. But what is the liberty that Mill spoke of? In many ways, it was the liberty or freedom to starve, to remain uneducated and ignorant.
“The 20th century philosopher Isaiah Berlin recognised the limitations of Mill’s approach. After all, is being free to starve truly freedom at all?
“He understood that to be free requires more than passive inaction from the state. True freedom is the freedom to have an education, to have financial security, to have a home and to be free of hunger. This motion is about those two opposing conceptions of liberty.
“Last year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights visited the United Kingdom. His subsequent report was damning.
“He found that 14 million people, one-fifth of the entire UK population, lived below the poverty line: 1.5 million people were destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. That is a disgrace.
“I won’t talk for much longer as I believe our motion stands for itself. The liberty Berlin spoke of is a liberty that requires targeted state intervention. The United Nations report proves that the Government of the United Kingdom is pursuing policies that do not guarantee the freedom of the individual.
“The motion is about freedom, it is about subsidiarity and it is about making sure that other European states do not repeat the mistakes made by the UK. It is a motion that I hope the General Assembly will support.”
Here is the full text of the resolution
- The Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, declares that “14 million people, a fifth of the [UK] population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%.”
- European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) indicates that disposable income inequality is greater than in neighbouring countries and the five regions with the lowest purchasing power standard (PPS) per capita are in the United Kingdom, three of which are in areas represented European Free Alliance member parties (South Yorkshire, Yorkshire Party; Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, Mebyon Kernow; and West Wales and The Valleys, Plaid Cymru).
The European Free Alliance:
- Calls on the government of the United Kingdom to implement the recommendations of the aforementioned United Nations report (see appendix).
- Demands that powers and funding to tackle poverty are passed to devolved nations and regions in the United Kingdom and that where regional devolved bodies do not exist, democratically accountable assemblies should be established.
- Reaffirms the principle of subsidiarity so that when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union (Brexit) powers returned to Westminster are further passed down to regional/national governments wherever possible.
- Call on European governments to work in partnership with regional bodies in order to prevent similar instances of poverty and inequality occurring as the result of public policy in other European nations.
Appendix: United Nations report recommendations:
- The UK should introduce a single measure of poverty and measure food security.
- The government should initiate an expert assessment of the cumulative impact of tax and spending decisions since 2010 and prioritize the reversal of particularly regressive measures, including the benefit freeze, the two-child limit, the benefit cap, and the reduction of the housing benefit for under-occupied social rented housing.
- It should ensure local governments have the funds needed to tackle poverty at the community level, and take varying needs and tax bases into account in the ongoing Fair Funding Review.
- The Department of Work and Pensions should conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and sanctions introduced since 2012, and should immediately instruct its staff to explore more constructive and less punitive approaches to encouraging compliance.
- The five-week delay in receiving benefits under Universal Credit should be eliminated, separate payments should be made to different household members, and weekly or fortnightly payments should be facilitated.
- Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service, equivalent to water and electricity, and the government should regulate the sector to the extent necessary to ensure that people living in rural areas are adequately served. Abandoning people to the private market in relation to a service that affects every dimension of their basic well-being is incompatible with human rights requirements.
- As the country moves toward Brexit, the Government should adopt policies designed to ensure that the brunt of the resulting economic burden is not borne by its most vulnerable citizens.