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Cost of Living

Volume 711: debated on Monday 21 March 2022

6. Whether she has had discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the spring statement on tackling the rise in the cost of living. (906174)

I thank the Secretary of State for that illuminating answer. Jack Monroe was right that this cost of living crisis could be fatal for some, and that is not a term to be used lightly. Has the Secretary of State urged the Chancellor to reverse the £20 universal credit cut and rule it out to legacy claimants, or has she asked to replicate the Scottish Government’s £20 per week child payment? Where is her comprehensive plan to stop our constituents suffering—and by “plan” I do not mean more loans?

There is a cross-Government effort to tackle the cost of living; that has been ongoing for some time, and was most recently revealed by the Chancellor’s announcement on council tax rebates, but also—[Interruption.] Council tax rebate is not a loan; the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) is misinformed. There is also a phasing of energy bills. [Interruption.] I am afraid the hon. Lady is yet again wrong in her assertion about the council tax rebate. However, moving on, the Chancellor really listened when he moved to make sure that the taper rate was reduced to 55% in the autumn Budget; that is ongoing, and it recognises the principle of universal credit that people will be better off working than not working. It is already delivering that, and I welcome the fact that the Chancellor did that.

One thing that would help single-parent families with the cost of living is receiving child maintenance. In fact, research by York University has found that securing child maintenance payments would lift 60% of children living in single-parent households that currently are not receiving them out of poverty. We have made good progress, but I think we can do more, for example by using home curfew to penalise non-payers. What plans does the Department have to move forward with home curfew?

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should be doing and want to do more on child maintenance. There are a number of reasons why sometimes parents are not so keen on that process. However, that specific power was created in primary legislation, and it is my intention later this year to bring the curfew order into effect. I will be working carefully across Government to make sure that we get the appropriate consultation and clearance for regulations.

The Government speak about their plan for jobs. I think many of us were quite shocked that a plan for jobs meant butchering back-office jobs in the Secretary of State’s own Department; I suspect that she might want to reflect on that. Given that her right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a multimillionaire who has no idea what it is like to get by on poverty, as many of my constituents and those on these Opposition Benches do, has she suggested that he should follow the Scottish Government’s approach of uprating benefits by 6% with a fixed budget? Is that something she is planning to ask him to do on Wednesday, or is it going to be more of the same from her Department—no action?

The House has just recently voted through the uprating order, recognising the traditional way in which the inflation index is used. We will continue to strive to get more people working than ever before. We have seen that certainly on payrolls. I am conscious that the surveys on self-employment may differ in that regard. That is why we will keep working in different ways to try to make sure that we try to lift as many people out of poverty as we can, and we will do that the best way we know: through our work coaches.