Benefit Levels

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at on 5 February 2024.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of levels of benefits.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Welfare is there to help those who need assistance, including many of the most vulnerable, which is why we increased most benefits by 6.7% for 2024-25. That was on top of an increase of 10.1%, including the benefit cap, in 2023-24.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

That is all very well, but the rate of inflation for low-paid families has been significantly higher than the headline rate of inflation for some time. That means that those families who were struggling badly last year are struggling even worse this year. Citizens Advice has shown that families on low incomes have less disposable income this year than they had last year. Does the Secretary of State accept that it is time to introduce an essentials guarantee so that nobody on universal credit or another income-based benefit can ever be allowed to fall below a level where they cannot afford the basic essentials of life?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we keep all benefits under review. I point him to various things that we have done to ensure that we look after those lower-income families, including increasing the national living wage by about 10% in both of the last two years; the increase in the local housing allowance to the 30th percentile announced at the last fiscal event, which will be worth about £800 a year for about 1.6 million people; and, of course, the tax cuts that the Chancellor was able to bring forward, which for an average earner are worth £450 a year.

Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Social Justice)

Rather than deal with the known policy failures within the benefits system, the Government seem to be more focused on penalising people through, for example, the two-child cap. Last week, the Labour party joined the Conservatives in prioritising lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses rather than the two-child cap on working women. Does the Secretary of State take comfort in the fact that his cruel legacy will be protected by the Labour party?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am not going to get involved in the crossfire between the Scottish National party and the Labour party, other than to say—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Chair, Treasury Committee, The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Thank you, Mr Speaker. The two-child cap is there for good reason: so that families in those circumstances are taking the same kind of decisions that others—the taxpayers funding benefits—have to take.