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Cost of Living

Part of Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:50 pm on 24th June 2008.

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Photo of Kitty Ussher Kitty Ussher Economic Secretary, HM Treasury 6:50 pm, 24th June 2008

I shall give way in due course, but in the time available I wish to answer the specific points that have been raised.

Families will be concerned by the increases at supermarkets and petrol stations and in their energy bills. To address those concerns, we have to tackle the root causes of the higher prices. Those causes are international. We are not alone in saying that; the Governor of the Bank of England also says it. He said that 1.1 per cent. of the 1.2 per cent. increase in inflation since the end of last year has been due to international circumstances. We have to work with our international partners to find the right response and we must respond to the ongoing impact of the global credit squeeze, which is contributing to the challenging economic times that we face.

As I listened to the opening speech from Mr. Hammond, I found it interesting that he did not at any point indicate that the problem was international or that the solution lay at an international level. At no point did he urge us to work through OPEC to raise oil production; neither did he urge us to work with our EU partners to liberate the global food market. I can only presume that when his party was in power, it had an empty-seat policy at EU level; its record gives it no credibility on the international stage.

It is important to work with our international partners to address what is an international issue; at the same time, domestically, we must provide families with support when they need it. That is what we are doing, through the increases in personal allowances this year, the additional payments that we are making through the winter fuel allowance and the delay in the fuel duty increase that was due this April.

I turn to some of the specific points raised in the debate. Disparaging remarks have been made about the speech made by my hon. Friend Nigel Griffiths. I enjoyed his excellent and factual contribution. He pointed out that the roofs of the schools, hospitals and railway stations have been fixed under this Government. The investment in public services—extra police, doctors and nurses—has been widely welcomed. In the past 10 years, real pay has gone up by more than 20 per cent. in each of those sectors, and we are rightly proud of that.

By contrast, Mr. Redwood said that we should have made earlier decisions about nuclear power. What—like his party, which deliberately said that it would defer the decision, despite the long lead time required to invest in this low-carbon technology? He also said that we should try to reform the common agricultural policy, but in many ways we have succeeded in doing that.

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