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Universal Credit: Food Insecurity

Volume 721: debated on Monday 31 October 2022

I begin by recognising the important work that the right hon. Gentleman carries out as Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee and thank him for the co-operation that he showed me when I was a fellow Chair of a Select Committee. I look forward to appearing before his Committee before too long.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, universal credit is but one factor in addressing food insecurity. The Government have provided significant support with the £37 billion cost of living package.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment and warmly welcome him. We already have a date in the diary for him to come before the Committee and we look forward to that.

Current large-scale food bank dependence is shameful. It was up by 46% in August and September on a year previously, according to the Trussell Trust, and it is reported in the press today that hospitals are seeing a big rise in malnutrition cases. The family resources survey also says that food insecurity among universal credit claimants fell from 43% to 27% after the £20 a week uplift was introduced. Does not all that show how crucial it is that the Prime Minister keeps the promise he made as Chancellor to uprate benefits next April by 10.1%?

I am not going to pre-empt my decision on the uprating of benefits or indeed the triple lock. We will need to wait until at least 17 November when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will come to the House with his autumn statement and those details will be known at that point.

The right hon. Gentleman raises the family resources survey. One statistic that caught my eye was that the percentage of households with UC claimants who are in food security rose from 57% in 2019-20 to 73% in 2020-21. Any element of food insecurity is too much—I recognise that—which is why this Government and this Prime Minister are absolutely determined to use whatever we have at our disposal to work on those figures and to improve them. That includes the various interventions that we have already discussed during these questions.