24 Ruth Jones debates involving HM Treasury

Budget Resolutions

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 12th March 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones
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The hon. Member is right. What we need is a country that creates the opportunities and jobs for people who need them in the areas in which they live, whether that is about affordable housing, delivering transport infrastructure on time and on budget—something the Conservative party seems unable to do—or ensuring workers have access to skills and training so that they can take the jobs available in their local communities. The Conservatives have consistently failed on those measures, which is why they are so dependent on migrant labour to keep the economy above a recessionary level in the Budget forecasts.

Turning to the denial of the Conservative party, its £46 billion a year plan to abolish national insurance contributions altogether is an irresponsible, unfunded, massive spending commitment without a plan to pay for it. The public rightly look to their national insurance contributions as the bedrock of our welfare state, where working people and their employers all contribute towards funding our national health service and the state pension. It was originally designed as an insurance to give people the financial help they needed during illness and unemployment.

Given the Conservatives’ pledge—confirmed again across the Dispatch Box today—to abolish national insurance altogether, without a plan to pay for the £46 billion annual cost, what do they propose to cut? Will it be funding for our GPs, driving patients to pay for private health care? Will it be the right to be seen in the local hospital? Maybe they will cut support towards the cost of social care, or end incapacity benefit or jobseeker’s allowance. Maybe there would even be a reduction in the state pension itself. What is it? The public have a right to know—[Interruption.] I will happily give way to an intervention from Ministers if they can tell us how they are going to fund their £46 billion tax cut. There are no interventions.

The Conservatives must answer this question. After their previous Prime Minister and their previous Chancellor crashed the economy through a £45 billion tax cut, they are now celebrating the latest form of a £46 billion tax cut. How will it be funded? Surely not through higher taxes or higher borrowing, given that both are at record highs already.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservatives should come clean about whether their plan to abolish £46 billion of national insurance contributions will mean putting up taxes on working people, cutting spending on public services or borrowing billions, like the previous Prime Minister, and risking crashing the economy again?

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones
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My hon. Friend is right. Ministers should answer this question and I am repeatedly giving them the opportunity to do so. What is the answer to the question? How will the Conservatives fund their £46 billion unfunded tax cut commitment? We can only assume, given that taxes are the highest they have been for 70 years and borrowing is the highest it has been for many decades, that further cuts must be coming from the Conservatives to our national health service and our state pension. The fact of the matter is that the Conservatives’ plan to abolish national insurance is not just fiscally irresponsible but morally abhorrent. In contrast, the Labour party will never promise to do anything it cannot pay for—[Interruption.] I seem to have woken them up on the Government Benches. I encourage them to continue to try to answer the questions we put to them.

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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I knew my patience would be rewarded in the end.

I am pleased to be able to say a few words on behalf of the people of Newport West. I am just sorry that those words will be about such a bad Budget—a missed opportunity, and a let-down for my constituents. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his powerful and compassionate response to the Budget on Wednesday. I also congratulate all my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken in recent days, especially the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who, earlier this afternoon, called out so powerfully and forensically the lack of a Government plan.

Week in and week out, real people come to my office, write to me, email me and call my team to describe their struggles to heat their homes, feed their families and pay their mortgages. Since my election to this place in 2019, my brilliant team have dealt with people in desperate need throughout my constituency. With each fiscal event from this tired Tory Government, my constituents have been moved from getting by to struggling, or, even worse, from struggling to absolute poverty. Since I was elected, absolute child poverty in Newport West—the percentage of children living in households with incomes below 60% of the median income—has remained at about 15%. That is shocking, and nothing has changed. The UK rate is also 15%, so this is a British problem, and nothing in the Budget will make things better for working people.

The people who have all the power to help are sitting right over there on the Government Benches. The Chancellor, who seems to be feeling the pressure in his constituency, could have delivered a Budget that invested in this country. He could have taken meaningful action to mitigate the cost of living crisis, and he could have genuinely helped people. I know, we all know and, worst of all, the Conservatives know that they could have done far more to help ordinary people, but they made the political choice not to. One of my constituents who had had problems with obtaining the warm home discount wrote to me recently that

“people have to beg for help, and they get fed up with the long drawn out process. Many are not getting the help that is promised by the government.”

That is the real-life experience of people in my area, and I urge Ministers to wake up and take action.

This Budget confirms that the UK has the highest tax burden in 70 years, which will rise in every year of the forecast period. The Office for Budget Responsibility’s figures show that for every 10p extra that working people will pay in tax under the Tories’ plan, they will get back only 5p as a result of the combined national insurance cuts. That includes the OBR’s revised estimate for the impact of tax threshold freezes, which will raise £41.1 billion over the forecast period, creating 3.7 million new taxpayers by 2028-29.

Given everything that was not in the Budget, we should all be very afraid. We should think about the £46 billion-worth of unfunded tax cuts that have been promised by the Chancellor and the Prime Minister. This reckless attempt to save their own jobs, with no regard for anyone else’s, exposes the clear risk of having five more years under the Conservatives. They will gamble with the public finances, and working people will be forced to pay the price yet again. This Tory Government clearly have not learned anything since the former Prime Minister crashed the economy and sent mortgages spiralling, leaving a real impact on working-class and middle-income people.

I am proud to stand for my party, because we know that with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) in charge of the Treasury, Labour will never play fast and loose with the nation’s finances. I have heard nothing from the Government that improves the lives of ordinary people in Newport West. If they cannot or, worse, will not take the action needed to get our country back on track, they should make way for a fresh start from Labour.

This was a bad Budget, with nothing for Newport West. After 14 long years, it is time for change, time for a fresh start, and time for us to change course and get our country back on track. Let the public decide. Call the general election now—it is time for change.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
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I call the shadow Minister.

Mortgage and Rental Costs

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 27th June 2023

(11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I thank the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), for bringing this important debate to the House.

In my constituency, 9,500 people will now be forced to pay £2,400 more a year, and that sits firmly at the Government’s door. Across Britain, people are being hit hard by the Tory mortgage bombshell, and the banks are now withdrawing mortgage deals. After 13 years of Conservative Government, does it not just say it all that millions of people face that Tory mortgage bombshell and the threat of losing their homes? Unlike this Conservative Government, however, Labour will not stand by as millions face a mortgage catastrophe made in Downing Street. I commend our five-point plan, which will ease the effect of the Tory mortgage bombshell, and urge Ministers to get behind it.

We will allow borrowers to switch to interest-only mortgage payments for a temporary period. We will allow borrowers to lengthen the term of their mortgage period. We will require lenders to reverse any support measures when the borrower requests that. We will require lenders to wait for a minimum of six months before initiating repossession proceedings. We will instruct the Financial Conduct Authority to issue, as a matter of urgency, consumer guidance stating that the credit score of borrowers making temporary switches to interest-only mortgage payments and lengthening the term of their mortgage period should not be affected. I am particularly pleased to note that Labour would introduce a renters charter ending “no-fault” evictions with four-month notice periods for landlords. That is how we will give working people the certainty and support that they desperately need.

After the 2010 election and the global financial crash of 2008, we heard many times that the financial situation was down to the Government of the day. Conservative Members crowed from the treetops. Today, they say that everything is due to the macroeconomic climate and global economic challenges. I say to them, “You cannot have it both ways”, because as things stand, they are in office but not in power. I was elected to this place in April 2019, and the last four years have not been the easiest for our country. We need calm and sober leadership, we need decency and respect in our politics, and we need a real plan to protect jobs, homes and livelihoods for people in Newport West and across the country.

Last week, my constituent Jolene came to my surgery to talk to me about her fears for the future: fears about how she will pay her bills, how she will pay her mortgage, and how she will save her home. Jolene is now a full-time carer for her children, who have additional needs, but her husband is a full-time HGV driver who is working as hard as he can. The cost of living has hit them hard, and in the last few months their mortgage payments have risen from £520 to £750 a month; Jolene believes that they will go up again. Like thousands of other people across the country, she is sliding further and further into arrears, and is desperately concerned about how she will be able to look after her children, both now and in the future, and hold on to her home. What is the Minister’s message to Jolene? This morning I met another constituent whose monthly mortgage payment has rocketed from £400 to £1,100. Who can possibly budget enough to cope with such shocking increases?

I am sorry to say to the Minister that nothing we have heard from the Government in recent days gives me any confidence that they have a plan to do right by our people. Some 9,500 people in Newport West will now be forced to find money to protect their homes in the middle of a cost of living crisis. That sits at the door of the Conservative party and its ill-fated autumn mini-Budget, which did nothing but spook the markets and let down those most in need of a Government who were on their side.

Only Labour has a plan to build a stronger economy that will see us less exposed to inflation over the long term, to give our people the support they need and to finally restore economic credibility after 13 years of failed Conservative Government. The people of Newport West deserve that—and so do people in all corners of our United Kingdom.

IMF Economic Outlook

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 31st January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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The hon. Lady is an experienced colleague. She is well aware that we have an independent Bank of England, and interest rates are its responsibility. The crucial thing is that we need to work in partnership with the Bank, and we do that by ensuring that fiscal policy does everything possible to support a stable framework in which inflation falls. That is why we have set a target to halve inflation, and if we do that, interest rates will be lower than they would otherwise have been.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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The news from the IMF this morning is deeply concerning. Small businesses are at the heart of the local economy in my constituency. Why does the Minister think the Federation of Small Businesses is reporting that confidence of small business is at its third lowest level since the federation started tracking it?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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The hon. Lady is right to mention small businesses, which make such an important contribution to our economy. My message to small businesses is that we have put in an enormous amount of support to help them with energy costs, including the £18 billion energy bill relief scheme over the past six months, and we will continue to support them from April onwards. Of course, the best way to support them is to provide a stable platform for growth, and that means keeping inflation under control. That is the great challenge that we face, and it is why, as the Chancellor said on Friday, the greatest tax cut we can provide is reducing inflation. That is what we are committed to doing.

Energy (oil and gas) profits levy

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this final debate on the Chancellor’s autumn statement and I would like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) for her fantastic response to the statement last Thursday. Let us not forget that this Tory economic crisis was made in Downing Street and that after 12 long years of their failure, dithering, delay and fighting for the privileged few, we are being held back by a party that does not care about people in the real world.

This statement has done nothing to help the really hard-pressed communities in Newport West that sent me here. Yet again, the Tories have loaded the cost of their incompetence on to working people in Newport West and across the country. My constituent Jenny Cloete shared her story with me, and she said this:

“My family is struggling to put food on the table, and I work full time. I struggle with everyday living costs and I’m not the lowest paid. I’m scared to wake up, scared to think past tomorrow. Scared for what’s to come. Please stand up for those of us with no voice.”

Jenny is not alone. There are millions across the country who share those worries and fears.

There were two tests for the Government in the autumn statement: would they make fairer choices, and would they grow the economy? They have failed them both, but they have chosen to fail. Fairer choices could have been made, but they will now have to be made by the next Labour Government instead. Not only did the Conservatives in government fail to make the right choices but they are seemingly unable to put forward a serious plan for growth. Only Labour has a plan to escape the Tory doom loop and get our economy firing on all cylinders. I want to pay tribute to my constituents Shaun and Julie from Bassaleg post office in Newport West, who made it clear in a recent email to me that things are beyond tough. They said:

“We are working long hours, 6 days a week with no breaks and are working for less than the minimum wage.”

So much for the Tory plan to get everyone into work. Shaun and Julie are both full-time workers, but they still cannot make ends meet.

In this statement, the Tories introduced new stealth tax rises, turning the screws on working people with 24 Tory tax rises during this Parliament and a rise in the tax burden to its highest in 70 years. Worse, the Office for Budget Responsibility has said that living standards are going to be worse at the end of this Parliament than at the start, with the biggest fall on record. That is a shocking indictment of Conservative party rule in Westminster, yet we now see Tory MPs doubling down on the new Prime Minister’s high-tax, low-growth model. We have been there before, and it does not work. This is why our growth is forecast to be the lowest in the G7 and the OECD over the next two years. This is what we get with Tories in government.

I am proud that Labour has a plan. Our country needs a serious plan for growth to escape the doom loop of Conservative economic mismanagement. That is why we will scrap business rates and replace them with a fairer system that is fit for the digital economy and ensures that our businesses are not at a disadvantage. That is why we have a modern industrial strategy to support the sectors of the future, and an active working partnership with business. We will support our entrepreneurs, and our start-up review will help to make Britain the best place to start and grow a new business, creating jobs and strengthening communities. Our green prosperity plan will create good jobs across the country. From the plumbers and builders needed to insulate homes to the engineers and operators for wind and other renewables, we will make Britain a world leader in the industries of the future and ensure that people in Newport West and across the UK have the skills to benefit from these opportunities.

Economic Situation

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Wednesday 12th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

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Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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As I have said, no decisions have yet been taken; that will happen in the normal way in the coming weeks. I have already explained how the minimum wage has gone up and how we have alleviated the burden of taxation on people on lower incomes, but ultimately what will help the hon. Gentleman’s constituents is ensuring that we have a growing economy so that everyone’s wages can go up, which is why we have a growth plan. I think the hon. Gentleman and his constituents can take comfort from, and be happy about, the fact that we have the lowest unemployment for 48 years and the highest growth in the G7. However, we would like to go further to help his constituents, and that is why we have a growth plan.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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My son currently pays £612 a month for his mortgage. Next year, when his fixed rate comes to an end, he will be paying at least £1,300 a month. My daughter, a hard-working junior doctor, cannot even look at buying a property on her salary of £23,000 a year. The stamp duty cut is no help to her.

What this Government are doing is not hypothetical; it is real, and it is affecting people like my son and daughter. The U-turns, tax cuts for the richest and a failed Budget are all signs of a Government who are out of ideas. Will the Chief Secretary tell me why any person in the UK should listen to a single thing they say?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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As I have already explained repeatedly, there is a global increase in interest rates, and as I have also pointed out, the increase in base rates in the United States this calendar year has been 1.5 times higher than the base rate increase in the United Kingdom. We know that people are facing pressures, for the reason that the hon. Lady set out, and also because of energy prices. That is why we have helped with the energy price guarantee. It is why we have put £37 billion towards helping people. It is why we are alleviating the tax burden on people on lower incomes, and it is why we have a growth plan. That is what we are doing to deal with these global pressures, and our plan is designed to help people exactly like the hon. Lady’s children.

Cost of Living Crisis: Wales

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

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Caroline Nokes Portrait Caroline Nokes (in the Chair)
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Before we start the debate, I would like to say something about the exceptional heat. I am content for Members not to wear jackets or even ties in Westminster Hall. Mr Speaker has announced similar arrangements for the Chamber. When the House returns in the autumn, Mr Speaker and the Deputies will expect Members to revert to wearing jackets and will strongly encourage male Members to wear ties when speaking in the Chamber and Westminster Hall. I call Ruth Jones to move the motion.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered the impact of the cost of living crisis in Wales.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship this afternoon, Ms Nokes. Thank you for the warning about the heat. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the debate on behalf of the many families in Newport West who have written to me, called me and messaged me with their stories, experiences and fear for the months and years ahead.

I was elected to the House three years ago. In that relatively short time, despite the devastating pandemic and all the pain associated with it, until now I have never seen such worry and fear in the eyes of my constituents. I am so angry that they have been forced into that position by the actions of this 12-year-old Tory Government. Let me be clear: this is a cost of living crisis made in Downing Street. The biggest challenge facing us all is that we have a caretaker Prime Minister who is more focused on hosting parties than attending Cobra meetings, and more focused on holding power than using power. He is so evidently uninterested in ensuring that the people of Newport West, of Wales, and across the United Kingdom have the support they need and the good government they deserve.

I have shared this story before, but it speaks volumes to the challenge that the cost of living crisis has placed on people in Newport West. My constituent says this:

“Thank you for responding to my e-mail Ruth Jones, these are my concerns. We are in a position right now where we’re not coping. Our energy bills have risen 54% and I am afraid that myself and many others will not be able to provide for our families. My husband’s parents are on a state pension of £82.45 a week, we are concerned for their welfare as they cannot afford to heat their home nor pay for food if these energy prices continue. Many of my friends are concerned for their own families too, we are all struggling, and instead of living, we’re surviving day to day. If these prices don’t change, we must have an increase in the minimum wage.”

That is just one example of the constituents’ emails that I get every day.

Anna McMorrin Portrait Anna McMorrin (Cardiff North) (Lab)
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I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. She is making an excellent speech. I am going to hold cost of living crisis workshops throughout Cardiff North, such is the scale of worry and concern from constituents writing to me time and again. Does she agree that this is because of the inaction and complacency of this Government, who have failed to deal with the crisis?

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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. The workshops sound an excellent idea. People are desperate and need such ideas. She is quite right that the obvious inactivity of the Government is the problem. This debate today is not about party politics or short-term political gain; it is about people’s lives. It is about housing, food, and the ability to have the fan on and be able to pay the bill. It is about survival.

Another Newport West resident wrote to me:

“I have one daughter, 12 years old. I am in full time employment and on benefits. I have cancer. Even before the surge in energy prices many people like me have been struggling to afford the essentials. The cost of weekly food shopping has risen, so has the cost of energy. My rent also increased recently. I have had to make cut backs on most things.”

Like colleagues across Wales, and indeed the House, I came into politics to make Newport West, Wales and our United Kingdom a better, fairer and more equal place to live, learn and work, and that remains my single focus. I hope today to give Ministers the chance to tell us how they can help us make life better for the people of Wales, but I am afraid that the response from Conservatives in Westminster and in Cardiff Bay to their cost of living crisis has been nothing short of insulting. They are out of touch, out of ideas and now out of time.

We cannot wait another day to act, because local people are worried about paying their bills and looking after their families, and have no basic survival abilities. At the same time, Ministers seem to be seriously suggesting that the answers to the challenges facing local people are dodgy loans and Tesco value products. The only conclusion I can draw from those suggestions is that the Conservatives are living on another planet. Although we are pleased to see the back of the caretaker Prime Minister, the current contest for the leadership of the Tory party means that we have no real Government in power. No decisions are being taken and there is no ambition for the people of Wales. There is no commitment to addressing their needs and no plan to get our country out of this mess.

That inaction stands in stark contrast to the decent and pragmatic leadership of the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford. The Welsh Labour Government are not just on the side of the people of Wales; they spend every day doing what they can to mitigate the impact of the Tory cost of living crisis. They have taken a number of steps, which I am sure other hon. Members will mention. In addition to those things, free prescriptions continue to help people across Wales to keep more of their hard-earned money. I note that prescriptions in England under this Conservative Government are currently £9.35 per item.

Carolyn Harris Portrait Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab)
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising prescriptions. Does she agree that, had the UK Government delivered on their pledge last year to introduce hormone replacement therapy for one annual payment, women in England would not face the pressure of choosing between feeding their children and paying for their HRT prescription?

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. Prescriptions, medicines and HRT are so important to people—[Interruption.] Absolutely, they are free in Wales.

The average band D council tax bill in England is £167 more than in Wales. Even with the UK Government’s recently announced council tax rebate, households in Wales still pay £17 less than in England, which shows that people are better off with Labour.

People being better off with Labour is further exemplified by the Welsh Government’s £244 million council tax reduction scheme, which helps more than 270,000 households with their council tax bills. Although the crisis is real, the Welsh Labour Government are stepping in and stepping up. That helps people in Marshfield, Rogerstone, Pill, Caerleon and right across Wales.

The crisis of food poverty is continuing to grow across the United Kingdom, which is why the Welsh Labour Government committed to provide free school meals to all primary school pupils. An extra 196,000 primary school children benefit from that offer, which shows how the impact of the Tory cost of living crisis can be mitigated by Labour in power. The Welsh Labour Government announced in December 2020 that free school meals would be provided through the holidays to children in Wales through to Autumn 2022, and the First Minister committed to further widen access to free school meals overall. This Tory Government have had to be forced, shamefully and repeatedly, into U-turns by Marcus Rashford’s campaigning and the votes of Her Majesty’s Opposition in Parliament.

As I have said in the House before, the people of Newport West are looking for help. The caretaker Government have no plan to help people with heating their homes, filling their cars with petrol or feeding their families. Last year, I spoke in this House about the 9,000 families in Newport West who had their universal credit cut, and since then I have seen for myself the devastating impact that decision had on families in Newport West and across Wales.

It is not just universal credit: older people and pensioners are at the sharp end of the Tory cost of living crisis, and they urgently need the Government to act. Pensioners spend twice as much on their energy bills as those under 30, and face spiralling inflation, with the prices of petrol, food and energy all soaring. Let us not forget that almost one in five pensioners now lives in poverty.

Our young people are facing the fierce winds of this crisis, with low wages, rising rent and the cost of living going through the roof. My constituent Bobbie said this:

“Hi, Ruth Jones. I would just like to ask a question, see if you can help. I work 2 jobs most weeks between 50 and 60 hours per week just to live. I get paid minimum wages for both jobs. My current outgoings are £1,200, and there is not much left when I pay the petrol, the electricity and done my food shopping. Where is the help for people like me?”

Bobbie is right. Where is the help for people like her?

I pay tribute to some of Britain’s largest charities, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Fuel Poverty Action, which have formed a new campaign coalition—Warm This Winter. The coalition is calling on the Government and all those who seek to lead the Government to support plans to prevent a catastrophic winter energy crisis. Although we currently face record high temperatures, in just a few months families will be struggling again to heat their homes. Let us not forget that all this shows how much the impacts of the climate emergency can affect all parts of our lives.

Rather than help those in need, what are the Conservatives doing? They have whacked up national insurance payments at the worst possible time, hitting working people hard. And let us not forget how Welsh Conservative MPs have used their place and their votes in this House: they voted to cut the £20 universal credit uplift; they voted against free school meals for children during school holidays; they voted for the increase in national insurance contributions; and they voted against a windfall tax. I suspect that the people across Wales, from Delyn to Clwyd South and from the Vale of Glamorgan to Bridgend, will be very clear about their views, needs and wants come the general election that our country desperately needs.

We live in difficult times, but for all the global forces facing us and the world around us, ultimately we need our Government to act, and to act now, because the cost of living crisis is costing livelihoods, costing lives, and costing businesses in Wales and across the UK. Enough is enough—we cannot waste any more time. My message to the people of Wales is simple: help is on the way with a Labour Government, and the sooner the better for all of us.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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David T C Davies Portrait David T. C. Davies
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Yes, Carmarthen West.

As I was saying, I stood in for my right hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) many times in Cobra meetings and I know how hard he was working. Incidentally, on the matter of Cobra—I know this issue came up earlier; it may have been the hon. Member for Newport West who mentioned it—it is not normal for the Prime Minister to attend all Cobra meetings, any more than it is normal for the First Minister to attend all Cobra meetings. I attended a number of them during the covid crisis, when—quite rightly—the Welsh Government were represented by the Health Minister, or sometimes by another Minister from the Welsh Government. That is normal, because the principle of Cabinet Government is that Cabinet Ministers, whether they are in the Welsh Government or the UK Government, are there to take decisions. Therefore, quite correctly, we did not always expect to see either the First Minister or the Prime Minister at Cobra meetings. Sometimes they were there; sometimes they were able to allow other Ministers to take their place.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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Although I understand the point that the Minister just made, the last two Cobra meetings have been all about the climate emergency, which is happening now. I am surprised that the Prime Minister should not be in his place at these Cobra meetings and I suspect the whole country is surprised, too.

David T C Davies Portrait David T. C. Davies
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I do not know whether the First Minister was at those meetings, but I imagine that somebody from the Welsh Government was. Does the hon. Lady know whether the First Minister was there, or did the First Minister send a representative? I do not know, but it would be interesting to find out, because the point is valid: the First Minister of Wales should have enough confidence in his Cabinet Ministers to know that they can go along and represent the Welsh Government at Cobra meetings, just as the UK Prime Minister does. Anyway, let us not go down that—

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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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I thank you, Ms Nokes, for your astute and wise chairing this afternoon. I thank the Minister for his speech; I am quite sure that the debate could have gone on all afternoon. I also thank all hon. Members who have spoken on the Opposition side: they have made such powerful speeches and interventions—intelligent, knowledgeable contributions—and demonstrated that they are in touch with their constituents. It is so disappointing to see that not a single Member from the Government side felt able to make time for this debate—I do not include Parliamentary Private Secretaries in that. I am sure they have good reasons for not being here, but I am sure their constituents will equally be asking why they were not.

This has been a collegiate debate, but make no mistake: the friendliness of the debate cannot hide the stark underlying message that the people of Wales are suffering massively from the cost of living crisis. Our Prime Minister has been asleep at the wheel, and we need him to go now. We need solutions for the Welsh people, and we need them now.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the impact of the cost of living crisis in Wales.

Economy Update

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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The hon. Gentleman raised this recently, rightly. As a rural MP, I share his concerns. The energy bill rebate is based on electricity metered, rather than gas, so it will apply both to his constituents and to mine.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I thank the Chancellor for his statement; the constituents of Newport West will be grateful that he has acted to help them in some small way at long last. However, can he confirm that only those who are already receiving benefits or who started a claim before 25 May will get the first instalment of the £650 he outlined in his statement? Am I right in thinking that this means that a woman leaving an abusive relationship today and needing to claim for the first time will not get this instalment?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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The hon. Lady is right that there is of course an eligibility date deadline so that we can process one-off payments, but that is part of the reason why we have staggered the payments in two tranches: to make sure that we catch those who arrive on to the welfare bill between those payments. There will be a stretch period between them to catch as many of those people as possible.

Tackling Short-term and Long-term Cost of Living Increases

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I take part in this important debate on behalf of the many families in Newport West who have written to me, called me and messaged me with their stories, their experiences and their fears for the months and years ahead.

One resident in Newport West wrote to me recently:

“We are in a position right now where we’re not coping. Our energy bills have risen 54% and I am afraid that myself and many others will not be able to provide for our families.

My husband’s parents are on a state pension of £82.45 a week, we are concerned for their welfare as they cannot afford to heat their home nor pay for food if these energy prices continue.”

She goes on:

“Many of my friends are concerned for their own families too, we are all struggling, and instead of living, we’re surviving day to day.”

Another woman from Newport West wrote to me to say:

“I have one daughter, 12 years old. I am in full time employment and on benefits. I have cancer. Even before the surge in energy prices many people like me have been struggling to afford the essentials. The cost of weekly food shopping has risen, so has the cost of energy. My rent also increased recently. I have had to make cutbacks on most things.”

The people of Newport West are, as I have said before, looking for help, but there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech to help people with heating their homes, filling their cars with fuel or feeding their families. That is why Labour wants to introduce a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producer profits, so that we can bring down bills, and bring them down now. I hope Conservative Members will finally join the British people in calling for this windfall tax, or properly explain why they continue to oppose measures that would ease the cost of living crisis and make peoples’ lives better.

Last year, I spoke in this House about the many thousands of people in Newport West whose universal credit had been cut. Since then I have seen the devastating impact that that decision had on families in Newport West and across Wales, and we will not let Tory Ministers forget it.

It is not just those on universal credit who are affected: older people and pensioners are at the sharp end of the Tory cost of living crisis, and they urgently need the Government to act now. Pensioners spend twice as much on their energy bills as those under 30 and face spiralling inflation, with the price of petrol, food and energy all soaring. And we must not forget that almost one in five pensioners now lives in poverty. Our young people are facing the fierce winds of this crisis, too: low wages, rising rents, and their cost of living going through the roof.

I will continue to call this Government out and to stand up for the people of Newport West, who need change and need it now.

Oral Answers to Questions

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Gill Furniss Portrait Gill Furniss (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)
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16. What fiscal steps he is taking to reduce poverty in the most deprived areas.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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17. What recent steps he has taken to help reduce economic inequality in Newport West constituency.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak)
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I am very proud of the record of this Government and previous Conservative-led Governments over the past decade of significantly reducing the number of people living in poverty and reducing income inequality. In February we published the levelling up White Paper, which seeks to address the very striking regional disparities our country.

--- Later in debate ---
Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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The hon. Lady talks about the record of previous Governments over the past decade but, as I have mentioned to her previously, the number of people living in absolute poverty has fallen by more than 1 million since the Conservative-led Government were elected in 2010. That is a record of which we are very proud. She talks of austerity and, to bring her up to date, public spending over the course of this Parliament is growing at a record rate, both on investment and on day-to-day spending, so we can support strong investment in all the public services on which her constituents rely.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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Women across the UK are the “shock absorbers of poverty,” as the Women’s Budget Group puts it. Women are cutting essentials for themselves so that their kids do not go without, and this is happening in Newport West, too. My inbox is full of emails from anxious families who are unable to pay their bills. What does the Chancellor think this says about the past 12 years of Conservative Government?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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Of course we want to be able to support those women, mothers and families who rely on us in these hard times, and that is exactly what this Government are doing. Over the past 10 years, as I said, we have reduced the number of people in poverty. We know that the best way to do that in the long term is to support people into work, which is why I am delighted to see this morning that unemployment is at its lowest level in almost half a century. The single best way to fight poverty is to have a plan for jobs, and our plan is working.

Downing Street Garden Event

Ruth Jones Excerpts
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman nearly missed the birth of his child, and I know that many parents will have missed the birth of their children during the course of this appalling pandemic. The purpose of the investigation is to establish the facts, and if wrongdoing is established there will be requisite action.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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I thank the Paymaster General for coming to the House today, but the people of Newport West expected to see the Prime Minister. It is a shame that the Paymaster General has to cover for his boss and I really feel sorry for him because he has a rotten job today, but can he tell us why anyone in this House, or this country, should ever believe a word that the Prime Minister says again?

Michael Ellis Portrait Michael Ellis
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The Prime Minister will be here tomorrow, at Prime Minister’s questions, in the normal course of events; that is more frequent than almost any other Minister answers departmental oral questions here. I think it is only fair to point out that the Prime Minister answers these questions himself. I have the support of the entire Government in this matter, in the answers that I can give, and my answers are predicated on the fact that in the order of natural justice, we wait for the results of the inquiry and investigation that is taking place. That would be the case with anybody else—it is not special treatment—against whom an inquiry is taking place. I am sure the hon. Lady would accept that.