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Cost of Living

Volume 574: debated on Tuesday 28 January 2014

In addition to lifting the income tax personal allowance, which I mentioned earlier, the Government are supporting working households’ income through other measures such as freezing fuel duty, supporting a council tax freeze and, most importantly, sticking to an economic plan that is getting hundreds of thousands more of our fellow citizens back into work.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The best way to help people and families on lower incomes is to take them out of tax. What is the effect of the increase in the tax threshold compared with the last Government’s disgraceful decision to abolish the 10p tax rate?

That is a very good question. The tax threshold increases that we have presided over will have taken 2.7 million people out of tax. The personal allowance is a zero rate, whereas a 10p rate would halve the rate of income tax, so raising the personal allowance is literally twice as good.

I would like to draw the Chief Secretary’s attention to people who earn less than £10,000 a year and cannot afford to run a car. With the incredible squeeze on tax credits through low inflation rises and the taper being made even steeper, families in that situation, who are the working poor, are being hit the hardest. What will he do for those people on tax credits?

The hon. Lady is right, of course, that the financial crisis that took place when her party was in office cast a long shadow over the personal finances of millions of people in this country. However, she omits to mention that many of the people she refers to were paying income tax under the previous Government, and it is thanks to this Government’s policies that they are no longer doing so.

19. I want to extend the previous question to the difficulties of pensioners who are stuck on low-performing annuities. How will the Government open up the market and improve annuities for the future? (902226)

We have already taken steps to ensure that the annuities market works better. We are examining it further to ensure that people who have saved for a pension can get a proper deal in retirement.

When it comes to the cost of living, does the Chief Secretary now agree that it was a big mistake for the Chancellor to issue such dodgy statistics last week, desperately pretending that the public have never had it so good? The Government’s first statistical dodge was adding in only tax changes that they like and ignoring tax rises and cuts to tax credits, which, by the way, disproportionately hit women. Their other dodge was trying to prove that the rich were really doing very well by leaving out that thing that they do not like talking about today—the millionaires’ tax cut. They were such blatantly skewed figures—is the Chief Secretary not just a little bit embarrassed about such statistical trickery?

A vast amount of words, but not one of them welcoming the most important set of statistics today—the growth figures that have been published this morning. The year 2013 was the first calendar year since 2007 with economic growth in all four quarters, and I wish the hon. Gentleman had welcomed that.

Week after week, month after month, we come to the Dispatch Box and beg the Government to do something about the cost of living crisis, but all we hear from the two Government parties is, “Crisis? What crisis?” How out of touch can they possibly be? I want to ask the Chief Secretary a simple question. Does he really, genuinely think that the British public are better off today than when he came to office?

I know for a fact that the British public are better off than they would be if the hon. Gentleman’s party had stayed in office. He’s got a cheek, he really has.

Again, no welcome for the growth figures or the fact that, last week, we saw the largest quarterly rise in employment in our country’s history. No welcome for the big tax cuts for working people in this country or the range of measures that we have taken to ask the wealthiest to pay more. Those are the things that are getting this country back in the right direction, something that the hon. Gentleman’s party would fail to do.