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Living Standards

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 1 October 2019

The recent spending round has delivered the fastest real growth in day-to-day spending in 15 years, targeting additional money on the people’s priorities of healthcare, education and tackling crime. We will publish alongside the next Budget an analysis of how these spending changes are distributed.

We on the SNP Benches welcome the Chancellor’s announcement on his pretendy living wage, because we have been calling for it for four years, but his promises still fall 5p short of the London living wage today, never mind in 2024. A 16-year-old today would have to wait five years to be entitled to it. Will he end the state-sanctioned age discrimination of his pretendy living wage, so that all people, regardless of age, can receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?

I welcome the hon. Lady’s support. It was this Government who introduced a national living wage in 2016. It was this Government who increased the rate, as recently as April this year. The announcement that we have made, which I will have more to say about later, will help to end—actually will end—low pay for good in our great country.

The best way to improve living standards is to reduce tax burdens. Does the Chancellor share my concern that anyone in Scotland earning more than £27,000 is paying more than the equivalent English taxpayer, and that more than 1 million Scots are paying £500 million in extra taxation?

I believe the First Minister actually promised not to raise taxes, but in fact the SNP has raised taxes on more than 1 million Scots. Doctors, teachers and police are all paying more in Scotland than in any other part of the UK. Scotland is now the highest-taxed part of the UK, and the Scottish people will remember that at the next Scottish elections.

Since this Government came to power, they have relied heavily on monetary policy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will know that quantitative easing and interest rates have now been cut to the bone. Is he concerned by noises coming from the Bank of England that interest rates could rise, and the effect that that would have on heavily indebted middle-income families?

The hon. Gentleman should know that the Bank of England is independent, and therefore monetary policy decisions are independent. I know that his friends on the Opposition Front Bench do not recognise or respect that, but it is a very important part of our economic system.

The Chancellor will know that one of the Government’s fiscal policies that is fundamentally wrong is the loan charge retrospective taxes on our constituents. Whether it is one death, no deaths or seven deaths, families are being destroyed because of the retrospective charge. Surely we should put a stop to it now.

Well, it is fiscal policy, Mr Speaker, in the interests of my right hon. Friend, and he is right to raise the matter. He will have heard the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in answer to the previous question, point to the independent inquiry that is taking place, led by a gentleman who has considerable respect. We will await the outcome of that inquiry.

The effects of the Government’s fiscal policies on living standards have been devastating, especially for vulnerable people, so is it still Government policy to remove the benefits freeze in April 2020?

The hon. Gentleman talks about the Government’s fiscal policy, which is a core part of our overall economic policy, and it is that policy that has led to a jobs boom, with 3.7 million more people in work since 2010, and over 1 million fewer working households in our country living in poverty. The real threat to the living standards of working people is the agenda of the Labour party.

It would have been helpful to get an answer to the question. We have a Prime Minister who cannot be candid even with the Queen, a Health Secretary who claims there will be 40 hospital rebuilds when in fact it is just six reconfigurations, and a Chancellor who worked at a senior level for a bank that a US Senate Committee found had caused

“material damage to ordinary people and the wider global economy”.

Why would anyone believe a word that this self-serving Government say? They are led by a Prime Minister who, many claim, believes that telling the truth is an illness to be avoided.