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Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 9 May 2023

The Government’s three economic priorities this year are to halve inflation, grow the economy, and get debt falling. This will require patience and discipline. Countries around the world are facing rising prices and we will not be able to make that go away overnight, but by sticking to our plan, we will halve inflation this year and help to ease the pressures that people are facing.

Food price inflation is increasing far faster than the overall average increase in prices. This is affecting the poorest the hardest in Kettering and across the country. Is there any good news at all from His Majesty’s Treasury about the prospects for food price inflation over the next 12 months?

My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for his constituents. The Office for Budget Responsibility this year does expect food, tobacco and alcohol inflation to fall significantly, and that is not all. The Government recognise the challenges facing households due to the elevated cost of living in general, including food, so we took action at the spring statement to support struggling families. Taken together with previous action, support to households to help with bills is worth an average of £3,300 a year across this year and next.

The Government are absolutely right to prioritise reducing inflation given the significant impact it is having on families and businesses across the country. I welcome the support that the Minister has just outlined for families in my constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup. Can he confirm what assessment has been made by the Treasury of the impact of more than a decade of abnormal monetary policy following the global financial crisis?

As my hon. Friend knows, monetary policy is the responsibility of the independent Monetary Policy Committee and the Bank of England. We will continue to work closely with them to ensure that monetary and fiscal policy are well co-ordinated. The Chancellor reconfirmed the inflation target of 2% at the autumn statement and confirmed that this Government will not change the target.

While inflation is now heading in the right direction, the effect of the price rises is still being felt by Fylde’s older people. What steps is my hon. Friend taking and what conversations has he had with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that Fylde’s retired residents are well protected?

I and my colleagues work closely with colleagues in the DWP, as my hon. Friend knows, on behalf of pensioners in Fylde. More than 8 million pensioner households will receive a cost of living payment of £300 this winter, but more than 12 million pensioners have benefited from a 10.1% increase to their state pension. That is the biggest percentage rise in the state pension for more than 30 years and its biggest-ever cash increase.

As the Minister rightly said, monetary policy is made independently by the Monetary Policy Committee in this country. However, the Government are responsible for economic stability, and for that we need investment. What policies of the past couple of years does the Minister believe have got us into this position with inflation, and how are the Government going to make sure that we have better economic stability, given their recent record?

The hon. Lady omits to mention both the headwinds from the global pandemic and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Any financially literate conversation on this subject has to acknowledge that we see very similar rates of increase in inflation and rising interest rates across the developed world. In that context, this Government are focusing on stability, ensuring that we continue to pay down debt over the cycle and do not do as the previous Labour Government did and leave a note behind for their successors saying that there is no money left.

Food price inflation stood at 19.2% in March, up from February. That is causing severe problems for many in my constituency, particularly those who have no recourse to public funds status, meaning that they are not entitled to any support from the Government whatsoever. What will the Minister do to help those people, who are struggling and heading for the food banks because they cannot afford to make ends meet?

In the interest of time, I will not repeat for the hon. Lady the support for households, which averages £3,500 across the United Kingdom. If she has constituents with particular needs, the Government have recently extended the £1 billion household support fund and I suggests she works with her local authority to try to meet their needs through that.

Inflation is hitting not just individuals and families, but councils and potentially infrastructure projects. Lodge Hill junction on the A34 in Abingdon is one such key piece of local infrastructure, and when completed, will support jobs and housing across Oxfordshire and Science Vale and the economy as a whole. Homes England and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities say that the final piece of that funding now sits with the Treasury in the brownfield, infrastructure and land fund. Will the Minister meet me so that I can explain why this is such an important piece of funding to be released, and please can the Government supply the last piece of this puzzle so that we can deliver Lodge Hill junction once and—

Order. That has absolutely nothing to do with the question. It is a bit of a struggle, is it not? Do you think you can answer it, Minister? No. Okay.