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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:35 pm on 19th July 2022.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales), Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:35 pm, 19th July 2022

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the excellent work she has done over many years on this issue. I absolutely agree that we are in danger of demand outstripping supply. I have talked to food banks and food support organisations in my constituency in recent weeks, and they all tell me of that concern. Week on week, they are extremely worried that their supplies of food will not be able to meet the ever-increasing demand.

Last week, I spoke to another couple, who go for a swim three times a week, which obviously helps with their health and wellbeing—it is supported by Welsh Government funding—but they use that opportunity to have a shower in the baths to save on water and heating at their home. The danger is that such examples are becoming normalised in 21st century Britain. That is worrying, scary and shameful.

I want to contrast the Tories’ record with that of the Welsh Government. As we have heard, the Welsh Labour Government have invested more than twice what they received in consequential funding to support households with the cost of living crisis. My hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley talked about the delivery of the £51 million household support fund, which is targeted at people who need the most support. The Welsh Government have doubled the winter fuel support payment to £200, which has helped 150,000 people across Wales.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newport West said that, from September, all primary schools in Wales will begin to receive free school meals; an additional 180,000 primary school children will benefit from the scheme. The Welsh Government’s warm homes programme has invested almost £400 million in more than 67,000 homes since 2011 to improve home energy efficiency across Wales, saving families money on energy bills. More recently, 57,000 unpaid carers across Wales became eligible to receive a £500 support payment.

The budget available for the Welsh Government to support the people of Wales is hampered by the reality that, over the spending review period, it is likely to be worth at least £600 million less than it was when it was first announced last autumn because of rocketing inflation. The Welsh Government’s spending power is likely to deteriorate further because of that. That is why they have called on the UK Government to update their settlement to reflect the significant impact that inflation is having on important budgets in Wales.

We have seen the smoke and mirrors, and sheer uncertainty, around the shared prosperity fund. There has been a lack of investment, despite the explicit manifesto promise in 2019 that Wales would not be a penny worse off; investment would make a huge impact on the cost of living crisis in Wales. As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West, designating HS2 as an England and Wales project, which it clearly is not, also denies Wales an extra £4.6 billion in consequential funding. The Welsh Affairs Committee and even the leader of the Welsh Conservatives agree with that assessment, but instead the Government are intent on short-changing Wales again. Once again, that money could significantly help to tackle the cost of living crisis in Wales.

What we have seen from the Tories at every turn is that they seem to make decisions to take money from people who can least afford it, such as voting to cut the £20 universal credit uplift, which Welsh Conservative MPs all voted for. They also voted to increase tax during the cost of living crisis, but voted against a windfall tax until they were forced by Labour to perform a screeching U-turn.

Our farming communities are suffering, too. Wales faces a UK Government who have broken their promises to the people of Wales. It has become clear that when providing a replacement for EU farm funding, the Government deducted EU receipts that were due to Wales for work that was due as part of the 2014 to 2020 rural development programme. That means that rural communities in Wales are £243 million worse off. Again, that is devastating for farming communities and the livelihoods of our farmers.

It is clear that this Government have no answers. Although the removal of the current Prime Minister is a step forward, none of the candidates for his job has any meaningful ideas to tackle the cost of living crisis and really make a difference to the lives of people in Wales. Rather than playing musical chairs and having the fourth Conservative Prime Minister in six years, what we really need is a UK Labour Government who will build a stronger, more secure economy, working hand in hand with the Welsh Labour Government for the benefit of everyone in Wales, and getting the cost of living crisis under control.