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'The more kids the merrier': Rees-Mogg backs large families as he wades into Walsall food poverty row

By Peter Madeley | Walsall | News | Published:

Jacob Rees-Mogg has waded into the row over food poverty in Walsall, declaring: "The more children, the merrier".

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg has six children

The Leader of the Commons has responded to comments made by Walsall Council leader Mike Bird, who said some families in the borough suffer poverty because they have more children than they can afford.

The issue was raised in Parliament by Walsall South's Labour MP Valerie Vaz, who claimed Mr Bird's comments were offensive to families in her constituency from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons: "With regard to the number of children people have, I am not one to lecture anybody.

"I am all in favour of large families; I have six children of my own.

"I would always discourage people from being disobliging towards people who have large families, because I think they are absolutely splendid – the more children, the merrier."

Mike Bird's comments caused a heated debate

Mr Bird's comments at a full council meeting prompted a major row, with Birmingham MP and Labour mayoral contender Liam Byrne among those to demand an apology.

Speaking during a debate about the need for food banks, Walsall Council leader Mr Bird said that in areas such as Palfrey, where child poverty is higher than other parts of Walsall, families tended to have larger families which they couldn't afford.

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He referenced a report saying 18 per cent of children living in Streetly live in poverty, whereas 63 per cent live in Palfrey.

"And there is a cultural issue," he added. "Many people who live in the Palfrey and Caldmore have four or five children at a time. And that is their choice.

"Whereas in other parts of the borough, they will limit their children to one or two.

"The crux of that is you can only have what you can afford. The root cause of this on many occasions is that the family is too big."

Mr Bird has refused to apologise and says "many people" agree with his view.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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