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Cost of Living

Volume 641: debated on Tuesday 22 May 2018

People’s disposable income is now 4.6% higher in real terms than in 2010. That is because we have turned around the economy and held taxes down.

According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, real household disposable income is £1,600 higher than in 2008, while the proportion of lower paid workers has fallen to its lowest level for 35 years due to the national living wage. Does my right hon. Friend think that those statistics would be as positive if we had taken the advice of the Labour party?

As my hon. Friend knows, the advice of the Labour party is that we need to “overthrow capitalism”. If we were to do that, there would be fewer businesses, fewer jobs, higher taxes and higher mortgage rates—and we would all be queuing for food, as people are in Venezuela.

Families with three children are at a greater risk of poverty than other families, and next year the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will take £1.2 billion away from them. Does she agree that this is the least family-friendly Government in history?

What we have done for families is make sure that more parents and families are in work than ever before, enabling them to look after and support their children. We are also investing a record amount in childcare—£6 billion a year—to help more parents into work.

19. Increases in the personal allowance and the national living wage, and the freeze to fuel duty, have helped my constituents with the cost of living. However, things are still tough and too many are just about managing. What further plans does my right hon. Friend have to continue to support my hardworking constituents? (905487)

My hon. Friend is right that we need to keep taxes down, but we also need to recognise the role that free enterprise and free markets play in encouraging competition, allowing new products to come to the market and keeping prices low. The reason why we have low food prices and cheap air fares is because we have successfully kept those markets open. The Labour party advocates abandoning that.

Tory austerity will result in annual social security cuts of £4 billion in Scotland by 2020. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that 1 million more children will be pushed into poverty across the UK. With planned devolution covering only 15% of social security spending, the blame lies firmly at the Chancellor’s door. Does the Minister think that is acceptable?

What I find incredible is that the Scottish National party, which has been in power in Scotland for many years, presiding over declining education standards and now raising taxes in Scotland, has the audacity not to take responsibility for its own policies and actions.

The Chief Secretary did not answer my question. Once a fortnight someone comes into my office with so little income that we have to refer them to a food bank. When will the Chancellor realise how much harm he is causing? When will he reverse the cuts and when will he end the hunger?

The reality is that we have seen more people in work in Scotland, as we have across the country, and that is delivering more real income. We have held taxes down across the country, to the tune of £1,000 per basic rate taxpayer, which means that people have more disposable income to spend.

Well, that was fascinating.

The Chief Secretary knows full well that 67% of children in poverty live in working households. The Child Poverty Action Group expects cuts within universal credit to push up to 1 million children into poverty by 2020. When all the Government’s policy changes are included, lone parents have lost an average of £5,250 a year since 2010. Families with three or more children have lost £5,600 a year. Families with a disabled parent and a disabled child have £6,500 less every single year. Is she complacent or just callous?

Surprise, surprise: we have not heard Labour acknowledge the excellent news from the Resolution Foundation that we now have the lowest share of low-paid employees for 35 years—before the Labour Government were in power. Under Labour, we saw rising unemployment and more people left on the scrapheap. We saw a welfare system that did not support people into work.

Order. We need to make faster progress. If people could keep their questions brief, and if answers could focus, as constitutionally they must, on the policies of the Government, that would be the proper procedure in the House. The right hon. Lady is very experienced and I know she knows that extremely well.