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Cost of Living

Volume 745: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2024

7. What recent assessment he has made of the impact of increases in the cost of living on living standards. (901363)

The Government stand by households, with one of Europe’s largest support packages, worth on average £3,700 per UK household, but we all know that the key to reducing cost of living pressures is to bring down inflation, which we have more than halved, delivering on the Prime Minister’s promise.

Families in Luton and Bedfordshire, and indeed the rest of the country, are worse off because of 14 years of economic chaos and incompetence under the Conservatives. Does the Minister concede that, even if the Government’s inflation target is met, families will still be paying £300 a month more for their household bills than they were just 18 months ago?

Fourteen years of the Conservatives has halved unemployment and increased employment by 4 million. Crucially, poverty is down: we have 1.7 million fewer people in poverty now than in 2010, including 400,000 children and 200,000 pensioners. That is a legacy to be proud of.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on poverty in the UK in 2024 reiterates that, consistently, the demographic with the highest poverty rates is children. Although 29% of the children in my constituency live in poverty, the Scottish Government are doing what they can with their limited powers via the Scottish child payment. Will the Chancellor and his team use their powers to make a concerted and determined effort to tackle the scourge of poverty, which is so damaging to our children?

I reiterate: we have 400,000 fewer children in poverty now than in 2010. In addition, the national insurance contributions cut that we have introduced has been shown to cut child poverty dramatically. Crucially, the leading indicator of whether a child is in poverty is whether their parents are in work, and that is what we have delivered over this Parliament—[Interruption.] Yes it is—it absolutely is. Getting more people into work will help to solve child poverty.

The British public are still struggling with the Conservative cost of living crisis, and the Government are now forcing up council tax. Last week, for the first time in my life, a Conservative MP spoke for me when he said:

“There’s almost no point chopping £100 off tax bills nationally if you’re adding on to it with council tax.”

Labour Members agree with the hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley). Does the Chief Secretary agree with her hon. Friend and colleague?

Council tax is a matter for councils, but we put in place a limit, which I do not believe existed under the previous Labour Government. More than that, the most difficult thing for councils and consumers more broadly is the £28 billion-worth of tax rises that Labour is planning in government.