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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:46 pm on 19th July 2022.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, The Lord Commissioner of HM Treasury 3:46 pm, 19th July 2022

Let me go back to what the Government have been doing. We have been steadfast in our support. We have provided more than £37 billion across the UK to help people with the cost of living challenge. Millions of the most vulnerable households across the UK will receive at least £1,200 of one-off support in total this year to help with the cost of living. The maximum possible benefit for a household is more than £1,600. We put in place a targeted £12 billion energy bill support scheme for domestic electricity customers in Great Britain to help with rising energy prices. We are supporting people across the UK with one-off cost of living payments, including £650 for 8 million households on means-tested benefits, £300 for more than 8 million pensioner households and £150 for around 6 million people who receive disability benefits. We are increasing the national living wage by 6.6% to £9.50 an hour, which was also mentioned here. Along with increases to the national minimum wage, we expect to be able to give a pay rise to 120,000 workers in Wales.

We also want to ensure that people across Wales keep more of what they earn. We are raising income tax personal allowances and freezing alcohol and fuel duty, saving car drivers up to £15 every time they fill up. We have reduced universal credit taper rates from 63% to 55% and we are increasing universal credit work allowances by £500 a year. Those together will see households keep an extra £1,000 a year on average. This July, we raised the national insurance contribution threshold to £12,570, meaning a typical employee will save more than £330 this year. Frankly, I could go on and on.

Opposition Members may say we are not doing enough, but to say that we have slept through this crisis and do not care is ridiculous and outrageous. I have lists and lists of stuff that the Government have been doing to support people across Wales. It is a £37 billion package. To try to suggest that there is not an enormous amount of work going on or that we do not recognise the problem is unfair. We absolutely recognise the problem—I cannot say it enough times. There is a cost of living challenge out there and there are people suffering. I do not want to hide from that in any way. At the same time, it would be nice if Opposition Members could at least recognise that when we put £37 billion into a whole host of schemes, it is deeply unfair to suggest we do not know about the challenge, we do not care about it and we are doing nothing about it. That is simply incorrect.

To take one example, the hon. Member for Newport West, who I greatly respect and who I appreciate is a hard-working MP, made a point about prescription charges. Yes, prescription charges are free to everyone in Wales. Wonderful. I get a free prescription as a Member of Parliament. In England, the number of people who get free prescriptions is very large. People in full-time education, who are pregnant, who have certain medical conditions, NHS in-patients and people on income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, pension credit guarantee or universal credit. Anyone who faces difficulties will not have to pay for their prescription in England, but the hon. Lady did not make that point. She gave us half the story and gave the impression that everyone is paying for their prescriptions in England. That simply is not true. In fact, it is rather more progressive to target free prescriptions at those who need them because they cannot afford to pay than just to give them out to everyone.

It has taken me probably a minute just to rebut that single point. That is the problem I face. There are quite a few other points I would not mind rebutting if I get the chance to do so.