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Reducing Economic Inequality

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 15 March 2022

Work is the best route out of poverty. We are investing more than £6 billion in labour market support over the next three years to help people to move into and progress in work. In addition, analysis published at the last autumn Budget shows that in 2024-25, tax, welfare and spending decision since the 2019 spending review will have benefited the poorest households the most as a percentage of income.

But real wages are falling by the largest amount since 2014, inflation is set to hit 8% and the energy price cap is going up. In the cause of fairness and sound economics, when will the Financial Secretary and her colleagues admit that it makes sense to use the record profits of North sea oil and gas to help ordinary people, who face a cost of living crisis?

The hon. Gentleman knows from the statistics announced this morning that wages are up in real terms compared with pre-pandemic levels. In fact, unemployment is now almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and is lower than in Canada, France, Italy, Spain and Australia. On his specific question, the North sea oil industry already contributes additional taxes through a 40% rate, which is double the amount that other corporations pay.

My constituency has one of the lowest rates of gross value added in the UK and is desperately in need of jobs and investment. The island is known as “energy island” because we have wind, waves, solar, tidal and—hopefully—nuclear. I was delighted to hear the Chancellor mention nuclear and the fact that he has committed to the £120 million future nuclear enabling fund, but will he also commit to publishing the criteria and bidding process, so we can move at pace in this vital sector?

It is great to see the good work going on in my hon. Friend’s constituency. Of course, her question is for our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who I am sure is considering it carefully.