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“Ignorant”: Justin Tomlinson.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on poverty, Professor Philip Alston, has hit back at Conservative government ministers over their refusal to acknowledge his report on the consequences of their austerity policies in the UK.

But it seems he is on a hiding to nothing as at least one Conservative MP at the Department for Work and Pensions has revealed he does not even understand the way his party’s own rules work.

Ignorant Tories including the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, have been lining up to say they “do not recognise” the validity of Professor Alston’s report, or to suggest its tone is “inappropriate”.

In response, he told The Guardian: “I think that dismissing a report that is full of statistics and first-hand testimony on the grounds that the minister didn’t appreciate the tone of the report rather misses the point.”

The report relied on undisputed statistics, such as the fact that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty and local authorities have seen a 49 per cent real-terms reduction in funding from 2011 to 2018, and highlighted the disproportionate impact of austerity on children, the disabled and women.

It stated: “There are a number of steps that could be taken simply through instructions provided by the minister to DWP that would make the system much more humane.”

It seems that his faith in Tory ministers to take the right actions has been misplaced – if the behaviour of family support, housing and child maintenance minister Justin Tomlinson is any yardstick.

Mr Tomlinson told members of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, of which he is a member, that families could cope with the poverty created by the Tory benefit cap that limits their income to £20,000 a year – by taking in a lodger.

There’s only one problem: Anybody in a council house or housing association property who takes in a lodger would be breaking the rules of their tenancy and may be evicted.

And most private landlords ban tenants from taking in a lodger, either because of mortgage restrictions or extra legal burdens on the landlord.

Most telling is the fact that this Tory is putting tenants in a vulnerable position, simply to cover a shortfall in rent created by his government.

Professor Alston ended his critique of the government by saying, “I’m hoping that actions will speak louder than words.”

Considering Mr Tomlinson’s words, that may be a forlorn hope.

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