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Cost of Living

Volume 714: debated on Wednesday 18 May 2022

We have regular discussions with the Scottish Government. The Chancellor has already announced £22 billion of support measures, including a tax cut for 2.4 million Scottish workers, worth more than £330 a year for a typical employee. We are committed to financially supporting Scotland. The record block grant of about £41 billion for the next three years enables the Scottish Government to take necessary steps.

While energy costs are skyrocketing under this Government, the Scottish Government are helping to decarbonise the heating of 1 million homes and saving families money while driving the net zero transition. At the same time, households are being hit by record fuel prices. Where they have powers, the Scottish Government are doing what they can by funding record investment in electric vehicle infrastructure and active travel, massively outstripping the UK Government. Why will this Government not match Scotland’s ambitions to drive the move to net zero and reduce living costs for families?

Let me point out to the hon. Gentleman that the measures to which he refers are in part possible because of the record funding that this Government are giving the Scottish Government. Let me also point to the measures that the Chancellor has announced to help with insulation, including the reduction in VAT on house-warming measures.

Let me first join the Secretary of State in wishing Rangers football club all the very best in Seville tonight—although I wish them no luck whatsoever for the Scottish cup final on Saturday, when they will play the famous Heart of Midlothian FC.

The Cabinet was asked for ideas on how to deal with the cost of living crisis. So far, we have had “Take on more hours”, “Get a better job”, “MOT your car every two years”, “Buy supermarket branded food”, and even “Learn to cook”, but all that the Chancellor has delivered is “Give taxpayers a loan of their own money to pay their bills.” Although oil and gas company profits are more than the combined increase in everyone’s energy bills, the Government are rejecting Labour’s plan to give all households up to £600 off their energy bills with a one-off windfall tax on those profits. Can the Minister tell us what the Scotland Office team’s contribution has been to these ideas, and which of those ludicrous ideas he favours the most?

I should begin by saying to the hon. Gentleman that the colour of my tie in no way diminishes my support for Rangers in Seville tonight.

As I have said, the Chancellor has already announced £22 billion of support. That includes 5p off a litre of fuel, £150 council tax rebates, and the hardship fund for local authorities, which gives support to the families experiencing the most difficulties. We have made it clear that the windfall tax to which the hon. Gentleman refers is not a simple solution to every problem—we have to think carefully about what it would mean for investment and jobs, and for our transition to clean energy—and the Chancellor made it clear yesterday that he wants the oil and gas companies to invest their profits in those schemes, and if they do not do so, no option is off the table.

That is simply not good enough from this Government. Inflation is at a 40-year high, but in reality, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies this morning, it is much higher for most families. There is the weekly shop, the energy bill, petrol for the car, and taxes all rising to the extent that 150,000 more Scots cannot pay their bills, and today—in 2022—too many children are going to bed hungry or cold or both. The Chancellor keeps saying that he “stands ready to act”, but refuses to deliver an emergency Budget. His actions so far have raised taxes to their highest level in 70 years and dropped living standards by the largest amount since the 1950s.

Scotland has two Governments making decisions that are compounding the cost of living crisis. Can the Minister tell us what he is doing to get the Chancellor to act, if he is not acting now?

I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that the inflationary pressures are global, resulting from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other global supply chain problems. This is not an issue unique to the United Kingdom. I have already said that the Chancellor has delivered £22 billion of support for the people of this country; he is keeping a very close eye on the situation, and will intervene where necessary. I should also draw attention to his record during the pandemic, when he stepped in at the right points to support those people.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advised people in poverty to buy value products, the safeguarding Minister suggested that people should just work “more hours” or get a “better-paid job”, and the Chancellor said that it would be “silly” to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis. Does the Minister have any equally useless advice to add to that of his colleagues for the people facing destitution?

I have already pointed out that the Chancellor has given £22 billion-worth of support to the people of this country. He is keeping a close eye on the situation and will step in when necessary. If the hon. Lady is that concerned about the cost of living in Scotland, I would point out that her Government in Edinburgh have a higher tax rate than here in the rest of the UK.

Apart from the fact that that is not true, let me say that the Scottish Government have already spent over £1 billion mitigating the worst of Tory cuts. We are investing £770 million per year in the cost of living crisis, increasing Scottish benefits by 6%, doubling the Scottish child payment and mitigating the bedroom tax. Does the Minister not agree that it is about time his Department lifted a finger?

My Department is providing the Scottish Government with a record level of support—£41 billion. That is helping them to deliver the policies that the hon. Lady refers to. They might be able to do more if they had not wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on ferries that do not work, or on the First Minister’s independence revival tour of the United States.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out the British Sign Language interpretation of the proceedings is available to watch on