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Lower-income Households

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2023

In the next financial year there will be a number of measures to help households with the lowest incomes, including a £900 cost of living payment, a 10.1% increase in benefits in line with inflation, and an increase in the national living wage to £10.42 an hour, which represents an extra £1,600 for someone in full-time work.

Notwithstanding the collective amnesia on the Opposition Benches, those of us on the Government Benches remember that when we took office in 2010, roughly £1 in every £4 spent by the Labour Government had been borrowed; nor will we forget being told “There is no money left.” Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are only able to take the steps he has outlined—as well as the steps we took during the pandemic—because of careful management of public finances by successive Governments?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. It is because we took difficult decisions to reduce the deficit by 80% in the period leading up to the pandemic that we were able to allocate £400 billion of help to families and businesses during the pandemic and £99 billion to families during the energy crisis, which means an average of £3,500 per family this year and next. There is a phrase for that: it is “fixing the roof while the sun is shining”.

A plethora of economic statistics highlight UK inequality and how it affects households. In Ireland, the poorest 5% of the population are 63% richer than their equivalents in the UK. In France, the lowest-earning third earn 20% more than their UK equivalents, while the middle-income third earn 25% more. Low-income households in Germany are 21% richer than those in the UK. No wonder the workers are striking! Why are the Government maintaining a system that keeps workers in the UK poorer than their equivalents in France, Germany and Ireland? Why are they not paying the workers, and why are they not sorting out the strikes?

That is exactly why we are taking difficult decisions to give this country a high-skill, high-wage economy—measures that the Scottish National party opposed at every step.