Cost of Living Crisis: Wales — Caroline Nokes in the Chair

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:01 pm on 19th July 2022.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 3:01 pm, 19th July 2022

It is an honour to serve under your chairship, Ms Nokes. I congratulate my hon. Friend Ruth Jones on securing the debate, and it is an honour to follow Ben Lake.

It is also wonderful to see so many Welsh Labour colleagues present for this important debate. That is a testament to the proud and long history that Labour has and will continue to have in the Senedd and among the Welsh electorate more widely. I note that a considerable number of Welsh Conservatives are absent this afternoon—I cannot possibly think what is distracting them at the moment.

The shambolic Tory leadership might be a priority for some, but I remain focused on the issues that keep coming up when I speak to constituents across Pontypridd and Taff Ely. The single issue impacting people the most is without doubt the cost of living crisis, which is putting working families on the brink. The crisis is hitting every single corner of the UK, but it is right to have a debate about Wales specifically.

In this place, we often talk about the north-south divide in England, but the complex situation across Wales is all too often forgotten in that narrative. Recent research by the Centre for Cities think-tank shows that regions in Wales are among the hardest hit by the cost of living crisis across all the devolved nations. Research by the University of Bristol suggests that 22% of Welsh households are in severe financial difficulty, meaning that they are forced to do things like buy lower-quality food, shower less and even sell their belongings just to make ends meet.

In my constituency of Pontypridd and Taff Ely, the local Trussell Trust food bank in Treforest has had to extend its opening hours simply to deal with the swelling demand for its services. Only last week, Wales Online reported that some food banks in Wales are on the brink of running out of food. Demand is sky-rocketing, but the generous donations that food banks depend on to function are drying up, because people can no longer afford to donate and are themselves feeling the pinch. The teams running the food banks do incredible work in extremely difficult circumstances, but it does not have to be this way, and it should not be this way.

The reality is that without proper, long-term investment from Westminster, people in Wales will continue to be impacted. I know some Members will disagree with my assessment and will be keen to point out that any support failure is that of the Welsh Government, but I must be frank. I speak on behalf of residents in my area when I say that this UK Government have never taken their responsibility to Wales seriously. It is the UK Government’s failure to recognise that wage stagnation and ineffective social security have now led to poverty and destitution, and that could have been avoided.

According to the End Child Poverty coalition, in Pontypridd and Taff Ely a staggering 31.3% of children were below the poverty line in 2020-21. That is almost a third of all the children in my area. It is a sharp statistic and one that all of us in modern-day Britain should be embarrassed by. However, let us be clear: with food banks running dry and the Welsh Government doing everything they can, without immediate action by the UK Government, living standards across the country will continue to fall.

In Wales, local and regional bodies have done everything to address the crisis. The Welsh Labour Government and my Labour-led council in Rhondda Cynon Taf must be commended for their work to relieve the pressures on households. The Welsh Government have committed more than £380 million to address the immediate and severe impacts of the cost of living crisis on low-income households in Wales. From the winter fuel support scheme to income relief for those on council tax bands A to C, Welsh Labour has worked tirelessly to fill the vacuum of support caused by UK Government inaction.