27 Tonia Antoniazzi debates involving HM Treasury

Wed 20th Mar 2024
Tue 13th Jun 2023
Wed 12th Oct 2022
Fri 23rd Sep 2022
Thu 11th Feb 2021
Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading

HMRC Self-Assessment Helpline

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Wednesday 20th March 2024

(2 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

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I assure my right hon. Friend that we are having live conversations with HMRC about how it communicates with Members of Parliament on behalf of our constituents. Some Members tell me that they would prefer a telephone call, whereas others would prefer email. It is important that we have both. I am more than happy to communicate views and opinions from across the Chamber on that point. I am well aware that one of the biggest areas of concern about yesterday’s announcement, and one of the reasons why the feedback has been so loud, is that vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, might not be helped. It was never the intention or the plan that such people would be unable to access online, webchat or other channels.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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The Minister has spoken about members of the public who are willing and able to access services online. Members have to complete our own self-assessment form. I am willing and able, but I still need access to a telephone helpline. He said that 500 people are needed to answer the same three questions, which obviously cannot be handled by the online system. Following this announcement, is he confident that HMRC has the digital tools necessary to cater for more than 12 million self-assessment taxpayers?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I need to correct the hon. Lady, as the vast majority of the points I raised could be handled online, including through the app. One of the things we must do is communicate far more clearly. A fair point has been raised in the Chamber today, and I will continue to discuss it with HMRC, because there are clearly some challenges with communicating what is available, where help exists and so on, but there is a wealth of information on the digital offerings, particularly the app, and I encourage people to adopt them, where possible. The hon. Lady makes a valid point that people who cannot adopt them will need other help, and we are listening.

Mortgage Market

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Tuesday 13th June 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
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I thank the hon. Member for his question. It must have been quite hard to get through all those points without once mentioning the fact that this has an international dimension. There is a war on European soil in Ukraine, and we have just come through an unprecedented global pandemic. He simply tries to reduce this to whatever is his party’s particular topic of the day. That is not worthy of him when we are trying to have a proper economic debate.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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The Minister claims to be shielding families. He evidently is not going to say sorry. When everybody in this House is supporting their constituents, we need to know what assessment the Department has made of the number of people actually affected by recent increases in mortgage rates.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Like others, the FCA has talked about the number of people in any one year whose mortgages are repriced. We do not know what the price of those will be. It seems that around 1 million to 1.5 million people are affected, so a significant number, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) mentioned. There are also many savers in society. Rather than looking at what is happening, what we are doing to help is making those difficult decisions. We are not unleashing unfunded, uncosted spending plans on the public purse and we are trying to get through this to help people get to a world where inflation is falling, the cost of living pressures on them are reducing and we can get the economy growing again, which will provide good employment opportunities for her constituents.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Tuesday 21st March 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi  (Gower) (Lab)
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T3.   When the Chancellor chaired the Health and Social Care Committee, the British Medical Association told him that pension reforms just for doctors would be a fraction of the cost of what he announced in the Budget. Can he tell us precisely how many doctors the Treasury estimates will stay in work due to this untargeted tax giveaway for the top 1%?

Jeremy Hunt Portrait Jeremy Hunt
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It is not just about doctors leaving the profession, but doctors reducing their hours. The Royal College of Surgeons says that 69% of its members have reduced their hours as a result of the way that pension taxes used to work. Doctors themselves have welcomed the Budget warmly and as potentially transformative for the NHS.

Economic Situation

Tonia Antoniazzi 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.

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

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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If the hon. Member is asking about the state pension, the Prime Minister has been clear that we stand by the triple lock. If he is asking about the private pension system, yes, I have complete confidence in the Bank of England’s responsibilities around financial stability. On his first comment, I think that having the lowest unemployment rate for 48 years and the highest economic growth in the G7 is something we should all be happy about.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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As well as mortgage costs, the cost of lending to businesses is going up. UK Finance said that small businesses have £240 billion in outstanding debt. What assessment have the Chancellor and his Department made of the impact that the rise in borrowing costs will have on businesses’ ability to invest, and what will the Minister do about it?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
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We are very mindful of the impact that rising global interest rates have on businesses. That is one reason why we will keep corporation tax at 19% rather than increase it to 25%. What I do not know is whether the Labour party support that.

The Growth Plan

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Friday 23rd September 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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What I do recognise is that socialism and high tax do not work. The hon. Gentleman and others have stood four times on a socialist platform and the British people have rejected them four times, and if they go back to their socialism, they will be rejected once again.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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Today we have heard the promise of accelerated energy infrastructure. For as long as I have been in this place, every south Wales MP has been demanding a tidal lagoon in Swansea bay. Will the Chancellor commit to working with the Welsh Government and Swansea Council to make tidal energy—green energy—a reality in this country?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Actually, I have done a lot in that regard. We had a ringfence for tidal marine energy, and there is a project in Scotland which is focused on that. As for the lagoon project that the hon. Lady mentioned, I looked at it and it was not, at the time, value for money, but I am open to the concept.

Taxes on Motor Fuel

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Monday 23rd May 2022

(2 years ago)

Westminster Hall
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Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 599089, relating to taxes on motor fuel.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms Elliott. I thank the petition creator, Michael Bromley, for taking the time to meet me last week to discuss his motivation for creating the petition. With more than 102,000 signatures, it obviously means a lot to a lot of people. I thank all those who signed the petition, especially the 152 people from Gower. I also thank the Petitions Committee for running an online survey of petitioners so that they could explain in more detail exactly why they had signed the petition. The survey had nearly 2,500 responses, and that overwhelming number of responses reflects the strength of feeling on the issue.

The petition calls for a 40% cut to fuel duty for the next two years, in order to go some way to combatting the spiralling cost of motor fuel. It states that

“The price of diesel and petrol is at an 8-year-high”,

and that the Government have

“the ability to sacrifice some revenue to appease the British public.”

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the Government are concerned that the fuel duty relief is not being passed down to the pumps, why is that not being addressed, and in the strongest terms? Does the hon. Member not agree that there must be consequences to ensure that the public are not ripped off at the pumps?

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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That is a big concern to people. When there was a fuel duty cut from the Government—of only 5p, but still—we did not even notice it. That is very concerning. I hope the Minister will address that issue.

When I spoke to Michael last week, the issues that he raised, and that were raised in response to the survey, were the same as those that my constituents raise with me week in, week out. Michael explained that as a single parent he could see the cost of filling up starting to mount, and that as a company owner he has had to make economies in the business as well. He is therefore clearly seeing this from two sides. Michael said that reducing the mileage of company cars and ultimately cutting the number of cars in the fleet was a big issue for his automotive business. We also spoke about the environmental angle. He said that he was really supportive of electric cars, but that there were still issues with the initial cost of electric cars and the lack of infrastructure to support a mass roll-out.

The AA has calculated that the cost of filling a typical 55-litre tank has risen during the year from £70.61 to £92.20 for petrol, and from £71.94 to £99.48 for diesel. There has been the most derisory of efforts to help drivers. For me, that is symptomatic of a Government who have no idea about the impact that the cost of living crisis is having on people across the country—rising home energy prices, food prices rocketing and the cost of fuel at a record high.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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May I add in the views of the domiciliary care workers whom I met recently in Newport East? Collectively, care workers drive more than 4 million miles a day to care for the vulnerable in our communities. They fear that they may have to leave the profession because the cost of fuel is making it difficult for them to get to work. Does my hon. Friend agree that that can only add to the recruitment crisis in care?

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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I thank my hon. Friend for making the point about care workers being on the road all the time. That cost has a huge impact on the quality of the care service, which we need to support, particularly at this time of year. So yes, that does contribute to the crisis. I hope to hear the Minister’s views on that as well. Ultimately, Michael would like the Government to grab this issue “by the scruff of the neck”, as he said. I am sure he will be listening very carefully to the Minister’s response.

For me, the most telling part has been the responses from the people who signed the petition. We heard about how the austerity agenda from 2010 was very hard for so many people; they allocated every month how much they were going to spend on fuel. Now, those prices are rocketing. Despite rising costs, many people have told us that they have to drive. They have to use their cars for their job or to access essential services. One man said:

“We live in an isolated village with a bus service that runs once a week, out of the village and back again. My wife is disabled, so the car we have is absolutely vital to us.”

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) has mentioned, we heard from care workers who have to travel between clients as part of their work. One told the survey:

“I am a home carer for the elderly and vulnerable who live at home. We are paid little enough as it is, with petrol prices so high, and that comes out of our pockets, not the company that I work for. This means if I don’t have the money to put fuel in my car, I can’t go to work, and these vulnerable people do not get essential care.”

Rising fuel prices are also impacting on people’s ability to visit and care for their own relatives. Where once people used their cars as a lifeline to visit friends and family, the cost of filling up has made them even more isolated, compounding the impact that we suffered during covid-19. Another comment read:

“I haven’t seen my mum in months because of how much it will cost me to drive to see her. Two years of lockdown and now it feels like another worse punishment…My children and grandchildren live 100 miles and 140 miles away, so I have had to restrict travelling to see them due to the cost of fuel. The two years of covid restrictions has affected my mental state, and not to be able to see my children and grandchildren has exasperated this condition.”

Many are having to make difficult sacrifices to get by. One person said:

“I work for the NHS and have two disabled children. It has been a nightmare, as I cannot afford to keep putting fuel in, but I need it, as they go to a special school a few miles away and I have to go to different hospitals for work. I go without food so that my kids have food and fuel, all because these prices keep rising.”

In many of these situations, there are no alternatives for people. Public transport links are often not good enough, and the Government’s lack of investment in local transport has made the public reliant on their own means of transport. I have been contacted by a community car scheme from Gorseinon in my constituency about fuel prices and the approved mileage allowance payment rates. Such schemes rely on volunteers who support those with mobility issues by taking them to appointments, often NHS appointments, instead of going by ambulance. The rise in petrol prices has affected those schemes’ ability to recruit and retain voluntary drivers, which will ultimately have a knock-on effect on the NHS. The volunteers also serve as companions to people who may be isolated and lonely. This lifeline, like many others across the country, is at risk if the Government do not act.

When the Chancellor set out a cut of 5p per litre in his spring statement, we did not think it would make much of a difference. It has not even scratched the surface. In fact, last week there were newspaper reports of this cut barely being passed on to the customer at the pumps, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East has spoken about. When we go to fill up, we quickly see price rises when oil prices go up, but we rarely see lower prices when the price of oil falls. Any evidence of profiteering by the petrol retailers must be looked at in full, and I welcome the Business Secretary’s call on retailers to make sure they pass on any cut in the oil price to customers.

We know that there is more the Government can do. We have seen examples from across Europe of Governments taking action to deal with the cost of fuel. In Poland, the Government cut VAT on fuel to 0%—something that UK Ministers said we could not do within the EU. Why are we not doing it now? Ireland’s Government announced a 20% cut in excise duty per litre of petrol and a 15% cut per litre of diesel. France introduced a 15 cents per litre discount on fuel prices on 1 April and has given €400 million in immediate aid allocated for hauliers. That money will be allocated to companies in the transportation sector based on the number of their vehicles and their tonnage. In Germany, the federal cabinet announced a relief package, according to which the energy tax on fuel is to be reduced to the minimum rate—a cut per litre of about 14 cents.

Spain introduced measures to cut fuel duty by 20 cents per litre and Belgium cut its fuel duty by 17.5 cents per litre. The Netherlands, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Romania and Sweden have all introduced measures to cushion the blow to consumers of these higher prices.

The Labour party has made it very clear that we will introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas companies that are benefiting from this increase in prices. We have seen bumper profits from Shell and BP in the first quarter of this year, while prices have risen and risen for working people and pensioners, with no end in sight, and there is no sign of action from this Government either. The Tories are out of ideas and out of touch. They should bring in an emergency Budget urgently, with a one-off windfall tax to cut household bills and support businesses.

I know that the people who keep this country going—those who need to get to work, those with caring responsibilities, the people who deliver our parcels, and people who want to go out and enjoy themselves after two years of restrictions—will be fascinated by what the Minister tells us today. The 102,000 people who took the time to sign this petition, and Michael in Chorley, will be waiting to see if the Government are really willing to help with the cost of living crisis.

--- Later in debate ---
Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
- Hansard - -

I thank the Minister for her response to the petition, and I thank the petitioners for signing it and Michael Bromley from Chorley for promoting it. This petition was created on 18 October 2021 and closed on 18 April, because they last six months, but what a six months it has been. He was concerned in October, and many people have expressed their concerns alongside him.

The sum of £9 billion was mentioned earlier—that is the Government’s support to help people with energy bills through their council tax bills. I say to the Minister—I know she cannot respond—that £9 billion was the sum that the Government wasted in relation to personal protective equipment, so we know they are not looking after their pennies.

When we left the EU, one thing we were promised was that VAT on fuel would be cut, and it has not been. There is a knock-on effect on costs, as many Members have said, and the Government need effective and rapid ways of putting money into our constituents’ pockets. Like the 100,000 petitioners, we want more to be done, because unfortunately they are not feeling the benefit of what has been done so far. I thank the Minister for responding, and we will carry on from here.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 599089, relating to taxes on motor fuel.

Government's Management of the Economy

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab) [V]
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I would say that it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Gareth Davies), but I am not sure he has fully grasped the reality facing my constituents in Gower and undoubtedly many of his constituents as well. My office has been inundated with queries from people who are so worried about making ends meet, about the security of their homes and about losing their businesses— people who have worked hard for their families, who have worked hard during this crisis and who have worked hard to keep people safe.

Eleven years of ideologically driven Tory austerity has financially crippled so many people. It has driven them further and further into debt and has fuelled a rise in precarious employment. That is where we are. To truly build back better, we need to tackle the huge inequalities facing the country.

As this crisis has shown, it is always those just getting by who are most affected. Women, black, Asian and ethnic minority communities and single parents have been squeezed, many to breaking point. A new research report, “The Single Parent Debt Trap”, published by Gingerbread and StepChange, the UK’s leading debt charity, reveals that single parents are more likely to be living with problem debt, and shows that the covid-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant for problem debt, exposing more single parents to poverty. They disproportionately experienced debt problems even prior to the covid-19 outbreak. Clearly, the £20 uplift has been vital, but single parents are facing particular difficulty with aspects of universal credit, such as payment of childcare in arrears and unaffordable benefit reductions.

There were more than 50 recommendations in a recent report from the all-party parliamentary group on universal credit, which was produced for Parliament. Have the Government actually considered the report? Do they have any intention of reforming universal credit, so that it is fit for purpose in a post-pandemic Britain? The report draws out how single parents are having to turn to credit, often high-cost credit, for example at the start of the school year, or at other high-cost times, such as Christmas—as a single mother, I remember it well.

What are the Government doing to strengthen the financial resilience of families and to give single parents better credit options, such as affordable credit, no-interest loans and a fairer credit scoring system, so that they can go to work and not turn to loan sharks and high-interest payday loans? There are a lot of fears about what happens to single parents and other groups. What are the Government doing to make sure that the unwinding of protections does not turn out badly, not just for single parents stuck in debt, but for the wider economy?

Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
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It is an honour and privilege to follow the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) in this debate. There is no doubt that Parliament needs to be brought into the 21st century. In principle, this is a vital and long overdue Bill and I welcome it. It ensures that female Ministers will have similar maternity rights to other women at work. I very much welcome the further work and proposals that have been spoken about today.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy), who highlights that the Government must not make this a two-tier system in Parliament, with only those who have the most senior Front-Bench positions having these arrangements. That gives licence to employers to think that maternity leave is a benefit like a company car that can only be offered to some. It is a right, not a privilege.

It is important that shared parental leave is championed by Members in this House to encourage the take-up by men across the United Kingdom. Being a parent is a tough job, and men need to step up and take a more equal share in caring responsibilities.

There remains a significant barrier to women’s involvement in politics, which has been spoken about today. As a single parent myself, without the support of my mother, I would not have been able to sit on those green Benches in 2017 when elected. Very few women have that privilege, which is why removing the barriers for new mothers in politics is of great importance to me.

In Chwarae Teg’s report “State of the Nation 2021”, the figures in Wales are stark: 86% of single parents are women in Wales and 40% of women are part-time workers. Many of these households are in great poverty. I hope that we will see swift changes, so we will not be holding women back and we will enable them to make their full contribution to society and the economy. I look forward to being part of that work.

Also on a serious note, I speak in support of the amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) and the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price). I thank the Minister for the comments she has already made on this. It does seem a bit of a misstep in the drafting of the Bill and can be seen as insensitive to many people. The fact that it refers to a “person” who is pregnant and does not mention “woman”, “women” or “she” at any point is totally at odds with all other maternity rights and protection legislation. The use of “person” would be asymmetric with the rest of the law on maternity rights and protection.

I give the following examples because we need to be factual: in section 66 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, on suspension from employment on maternity grounds, all references are to “she”; in section 71, “ordinary maternity leave” refers to “she”; in section 73, “additional maternity leave” refers to “her” rights; and in the Equality Act 2010, section 72 onwards, where a woman is employed or holds personal or public office, it is all about maternity equality. I therefore ask the Minister to reconfirm that the wording of the Bill will not be rushed in through the backdoor at this very difficult time, without scrutiny, discussion or challenge. The Government can be better and can move quicker, as we have seen with the speed of the Bill’s introduction. We all have to be better; we have to do more for new mothers, and not just those who have the privilege of being a Member of this House.

Economic Update

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Monday 11th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I praise my hon. Friend for being a fantastic representative of her constituents when it comes to financial services. I have enjoyed my conversations with her, and I look forward to working with her and the industry to ensure that we maintain a close relationship with the EU, but also that we look to capitalise on the new opportunities, making sure that London remains a pre-eminent global centre and that the UK does its bit. Whether it is on greening the financial system or taking advantage of new digital technologies, we must lead the world, and I know that she will help me to do that.

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

The Welsh Government have not hoarded money meant for Welsh businesses, and it is dangerous to hear the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) saying such things in the Chamber. They are getting help to those businesses while the UK Government make a big fanfare over new help that turns out not to be new help at all. Will the Chancellor tell me and my constituents how much new money for Wales he has announced today?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy for the hon. Lady to refer to the answer I gave earlier, but if she would prefer that, rather than give up-front funding guarantees and certainty to the devolved Administrations in a pandemic, we returned to piecemeal funding by announcement, she should please write to me and let me know. The Welsh Government have received over £5 billion in up-front funding guarantees, and as we make announcements it is right that we highlight the amount of additional Barnett funding that flows from those announcements, so that that can be netted off against the guarantee.

Financial Reward for Government Workers and Key Workers

Tonia Antoniazzi Excerpts
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 5 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.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petitions 306845 and 328754, relating to financial rewards for government workers and keyworkers.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Stringer, and an honour to lead for the Petitions Committee on this debate.

As we come to the end of any year, we all start to reflect on the events of the past 12 months, but 2020 has been such an unprecedented year for everyone. Throughout the year, the extraordinary contributions made by so many, particularly our key workers, have made our lives so much better throughout the pandemic. I put on record again my sincere thanks to all those who have worked hard and have given what was most needed, when we needed it most. Those people have been invaluable. However, it seems that despite warm words, the Government do not appreciate the work that so many have done for us. We clapped for them on our doorsteps, but it turns out that they are not worth paying properly in recognition of their dedication. As we can see from the number of signatures on these two petitions, and indeed the sheer number of petitions on this issue, there is strong feeling across the country on how we should reward people on the frontline.

During the summer, I had a phone call from my friend Mel’s brother, a local refuse collector and union rep. He wanted to tell me at first hand that his team had turned up throughout the pandemic, and continued to not miss a round. I am so proud of them, and so proud of the efforts that people have made to keep our country going. Swansea Council and local authorities across the United Kingdom can be very proud of their workforce and how they have adapted to the challenges they have faced. Although Rob Stewart, the leader of Swansea Council, is looking at different ways to reward staff, his hands are tied financially.

Former colleagues of mine in the teaching profession, in both England and Wales, who have kept schools open for key workers’ children, described to me their immense fatigue, and the pressure they are under. They are moving classrooms, carrying resources, and increasing their planning and preparation, in a job in which they feel deeply responsible for the learning and progression of our future generations. They are also on their knees. When the Welsh Labour Government tried to reward workers in care homes with a £500 bonus earlier in the year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer taxed them on it, with those claiming universal credit suffering a double whammy. These are the poorest paid people in the public sector, and they took those hits again and again—and it looks like the same will happen if the Scottish Government try to give a thank-you payment to their NHS staff.

In response to my friend the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens), who I am pleased to see in this debate, the Prime Minister said that he was

“lost in admiration for the efforts of our civil servants, whether in DWP, HMRC or the Treasury. If we think about the furloughing scheme, everybody said it was impossible and far too complicated, and that we would never get that cash into people’s pockets, but they did it within four weeks. That is a fantastic tribute to the work of our civil service, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”—[Official Report, 11 May 2020; Vol. 676, c. 38.]

Following the Chancellor’s spending review announcement that there will be a pay freeze for all public sector workers, I suspect that civil servants will not be feeling the Prime Minister’s “admiration” so much as the “lost” bit. This further pay freeze comes after public sector workers have already been punished by a decade of pay freezes and increased workload. I know; I was one of them.

I am sure that we will hear from the Minister about the difference between public and private sector pay, but we know that once workforce characteristics such as experience and educational attainment are taken into account, there is close to 0% difference in pay. Undoubtedly, we will hear about the need for fairness for those working in the private sector, and I wholeheartedly agree that they should be treated with fairness, but this is not, and should not be, a race to the bottom. We should be bringing pay in the private sector up to a standard that makes all “work pay”, as the Conservatives are wont to say.

The Minister will probably talk about value for money for taxpayers, but guess what? Public sector workers pay their taxes, too. If the Government do not think that the work that has been done by civil servants—nurses, the police, the fire service, work coaches, Border Force, refuse collectors, workers in the justice system, our armed forces, teachers and, indeed, all those who have faced the biggest challenge and have put themselves on the frontline in fighting this pandemic—is worthy of a pay rise, they should say so. And I will wait for the Government line to be trotted out about the poorest paid being rewarded. If they were being rewarded in any meaningful way, I would welcome that announcement, but as with all these things, the devil is in the detail. A pay rise of £250 for those earning under £24,000 a year is equivalent to just £4.80 a week, and that is before tax, so in terms of take-home pay, it is about enough for some mince pies, 2 pints of milk and some teabags—what a Christmas bonus for them!

Just one look at the civil service campaign “Here For You” shows what a resilient and adaptive workforce we have in our civil servants, including the defence equipment workers who have been overseeing the staffing of the Nightingale hospitals; the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which has worked to get other key workers their driving test quickly; and those in the Foreign Office who repatriated thousands of British citizens from abroad. We cannot forget this. I personally thank them all, especially the workers in Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs who got the furlough scheme up and running, and the Department for Work and Pensions staff—friends of mine—who processed thousands of universal credit claims. Some of them are already on low wages.

Public sector workers are not asking a lot; they just want their contribution to be recognised. They were undoubtedly grateful for our applause earlier this year, but that will not put food on the table, buy new school uniforms, keep the car on the road or enable them to get to work on public transport. Claps do not pay the bills. At the end of the day, we are here to represent them, and just from looking round Westminster Hall today, people can see who really cares about this.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (in the Chair)
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I intend to start calling the Front-Bench spokespeople in approximately 40 minutes. I think I have 11 speakers, so I will start with a time limit of four minutes. If some people speak for less, that should just about do it, but if there are many interventions, I will have to reduce the time. I call John McDonnell.

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Tonia Antoniazzi Portrait Tonia Antoniazzi
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I will, on behalf of the Petitions Committee, thank the Minister for the Government response. However, I am very disappointed, as are many of my colleagues here today, that she was unable to take any interventions from us in what is meant to be a debate. It is really difficult that the Government do not recognise the challenges that key workers face. It is evident that the Government are not hearing what people are saying when one petition has nearly 150,000 signatures and the other just over 100,000. It is striking to all of us that our constituents and many people and key workers across the UK do not recognise what has been said. In fact, I am only in this place because I was a teacher for more than 20 years and, since 2010, the public sector workers’ pay freeze has had a massive impact on so many people’s lives and the quality of their lives.

What is going to happen from 1 January? We do not actually know the impact on our key workers and how many will have to leave or may be unable to fill these jobs. I worry about the future, because I worry about our future generations. Being a key worker or being in the public sector means that you are in a vocation. That is what we have seen through the pandemic: people are in a vocation and they give of their best to help everybody else; it is that vocation that drives them forward. To be in a vocation is an honour, but how do we now tell this to our children, whose education has been hammered, who have not been able to sit exams and who have not been able to secure a future for themselves? Yes, there are plenty of jobs out there in the public sector, but why would they want to take a job in the public sector when this is how they are treated by this Government?

Does the Minister recognise that imposing a real-terms pay cut when 1.8 million key workers already earn less than the living wage risks driving thousands into poverty? That poverty, moving forward, is what I am concerned about. That we have to volunteer at food banks and deliver food hampers to people who just cannot put food on the table, at Christmas and throughout the year, is not good enough. That the Minister did not reaffirm the Government’s manifesto promises is an absolute disgrace.

I could go on and on, but I will not. My colleagues have not had the opportunity to have a proper debate in Westminster Hall, and that is extremely disappointing. I thank you, Mr Stringer, for your chairship, and I thank the petitioners, who tried to get their message across today but who, unfortunately, were not listened to, as we were unable to have a proper debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petitions 306845 and 328754, relating to financial rewards for government workers and keyworkers.