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Cost of Living: Northern Ireland

Volume 717: debated on Tuesday 28 June 2022

3. What fiscal steps he is taking to help reduce the impact of rises in the cost of living in Northern Ireland. (900759)

The UK Government are providing £37 billion-worth of support to help families with the cost of living, and most of that support is being provided directly to households across the United Kingdom. Indeed, we are legislating to ensure that our one-off payments to those on welfare that are worth up to £650 can be paid directly to households and families in Northern Ireland.

As the Chancellor will be aware, the energy bill support scheme cannot currently be extended to Northern Ireland due to the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive, so can he update the House on what steps he is taking to put in place measures to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can avail themselves of that support? I appreciate that it is not due until October, but there is a long lead-in time required in that respect.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we want to ensure that equivalent support is provided to all Northern Irish families, and that it will be of the same value. We are currently in discussions with a variety of organisations to see how best to deliver that support, but I can give him the reassurance that it will be there in the same quantity, in the same value and at the same time.

The combined impacts of the £37 billion package that my right hon. Friend has referred to, plus tax reductions such as the cut in fuel duty, are providing really significant support to people in Northern Ireland. Does he agree that that is an illustration of why people in Northern Ireland are better off as a result of the Union and of the fact that we are stronger together as a group of four nations?

My right hon. Friend speaks with authority and experience on this topic, and of course she is absolutely right: the UK Government are ensuring that families across the United Kingdom are benefiting from the support we are putting in place. More broadly, we will do everything we can in government to protect and support the United Kingdom.

Many of the fiscal levers the Government could use to support Northern Ireland are not available, because we are under the EU VAT regime and still subject to EU state aid rules, which would rule out many of the measures the Government would take. Is that not a reason why the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill that is going through the House of Commons is essential, in order to enable the Government to use fiscal levers across the whole UK to benefit all of the people, be they Unionists, nationalists or any others in Northern Ireland?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. As I said from this Dispatch Box at the time of the spring statement, we were unable to extend our VAT cut on energy-saving materials to Northern Ireland because of some of the provisions in the protocol. He will know that the legislation we have put before this House, which I am glad received support last night, will address exactly those issues.