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Labour’s Frank Field moved a Conservative MP to tears during a debate on Universal Credit in Parliament today.
During an incredibly emotive speech, Field recounted several horrifying stories of the devastating effects the new all-in-one Tory benefit, Universal Credit, has had on several of his constituents.
Field’s stories, which included a constituent who he had attempted to persuade not to commit suicide, and another family whose child had cried with hunger, were so heart-wrenching that Conservative MP Heidi Allen was left too emotional to continue her reply to the Labour MP.
Mr Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead, told Parliament:
I’ve done surgeries for 38 years. On my last surgery on Friday, for the first time ever a gentleman rose after we’d spoke and I tried to persuade him not to commit suicide – such was the desperateness that he saw for his future.
I realised that the hand that shook mine was wet. He’d been crying. And the hand that shook my hand was the hand that wiped away those tears.
On Friday, Feeding Birkenhead, which is the most brilliant – but aught to be unnecessary – organisation, reported a family coming in, of a husband, wife and young child. The child was crying with hunger. The family was fed. The father said it had been a lucky week for him because neighbours had taken pity and invited him to a funeral so they could finish off the food after the other funeral guests had been fed.
When the little boy was shown the shelf where toys were, but also on that shelf were lunch packs, he chose the lunch pack. This is the background of growing destitution that I see in my constituency and against which we have to judge Universal Credit and the debate that we are having today.
Mr Field finished his extraordinarily emotive speech by asking MPs:
The effects that I described – how does an MP persuade somebody to give them hope when I don’t have hope for them that thing are going to radically improve not to top themselves?
What do we do to a family who last year gave toys to the project for our Christmas hampers, but have so been reduced in circumstances that this year their little boy cries with hunger?
Following Field in the debate was Tory MP Heidi Allen, who was visibly and audibly emotional, struggled to get her words out. Allen began her speech by saying:
I don’t know where to start after that!
Allen then continued by stating:
I am humbled by the words from my honourable good friend from Birkenhead.
No government is perfect, no benefit system is perfect, no debate, no motion is perfect, but by God we work together to make this better.
The Select Committees are cross-party, and they play a very important role in scrutiny. Our Work and Pensions Select Committee is no different, and I’m sure our focus on Universal Credit…
However, emotion then appeared to overcome Allen as she stopped speaking and placed her hand on her chest, before turning towards the speaker to say:
I’m not very good at this job am I, Mr Speaker?!
Mr Field then kindly interjected to reassure Ms Allen that he too was deeply affected by the issues raised in his highly emotive speech, stating:
I’m just amazed that for the first time I’ve been able to report these events publicly without weeping. I am so affected by them – I’m as affected as she is.
That is the debate that we’re really having – how do we represent here the desperateness of many of our constituents when many of us feel we can’t offer them hope. I fear that may not have helped my honourable friend, but it was meant to.
You can watch the incredible exchange below: