Treasury Questions

Child Poverty

 
3. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the effect of his fiscal policies on the level of child poverty. [905045]
 
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Priti Patel): The Government are protecting vulnerable groups while taking action to tackle the record deficit we inherited. Work remains the best route out of poverty and the Budget took action to support families and to make the tax and welfare system fairer, further increasing the income tax personal allowance to £10,500 in 2015-16, which will take 3.2 million people on low incomes out of tax altogether.
 
Robert Flello: I was amazed by the answer given by the Minister’s colleague to the previous question, so perhaps I will try her on the same point. Are she and her colleague in the least bit troubled by the fact that the IFS forecasts that child poverty will rise by 400,000 during this Parliament?
 
Priti Patel: The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government are committed to ending child poverty by 2020. Under this Government, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has already said, child poverty has fallen by more than 300,000 since 2010. The best route out of poverty is work and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will support that route.
 
Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): I congratulate the Minister on her debut at the Dispatch Box. She has referred to child poverty falling under this Government. Will she confirm that it rose under the previous Labour Government in the previous Parliament?
 
Priti Patel: I thank my hon. Friend for his warm remarks. He is absolutely right. It is this Government who have gone out of their way to focus on a child poverty strategy, reducing the numbers, and that is something of which we are proud.
 
16. [905060] Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): The Government’s own figures show that the number of children in poverty in absolute terms after housing costs increased by half a million between 2010 and 2013. Why does the burden of fiscal adjustment fall on the most vulnerable?
 
Priti Patel: I think it is worth my reiterating that relative child poverty has fallen under this Government by 300,000 since 2010. It is quite clear what the IFS has said about the greatest and deepest recession we have had thus far and that work is the best route out of poverty. I have said it already and I will repeat it: work is the best route out of poverty. This Government are supporting hard-working families across the country and getting them out of poverty.
 
18. [905062] Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab): Unfortunately, the Minister’s comments bear no relationship to Rotherham, where almost a third of children are living in poverty. On a related topic, may I ask whether the Chancellor would listen to requests for additional funding for child protection in Rotherham and around the country?
 
Priti Patel: I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and we will look at all places and all situations. I reiterate that this Government are committed to helping all families that are having difficult times. Child poverty has come down and, of course, work is the best route to get families out of poverty. I am happy to discuss with her the specific issue of child poverty in her constituency
 
 

Fuel Duty

 
5. Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effect of freezing fuel duty on the price of petrol. [905047]
 
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Priti Patel): Autumn statement 2013 confirmed that fuel duty will be frozen for the remainder of this Parliament. As a result of this Government’s very clear actions, average pump prices are currently 16 pence per litre lower than they would have been if the Government had implemented the previous Government’s fuel duty escalator, and will be nearly 20 pence per litre lower by the end of this Parliament.
 
Mr Burns: May I congratulate my fellow Essex MP on her well-deserved promotion to the Treasury? Will she update the House on the use of the tax system to reduce the instability for motorists and outline the help that has been provided for them during what was the most horrendous recession caused by the Labour party?
 
Priti Patel: I thank my right hon. Friend for his warm and generous remarks. He knows that the Government are committed to supporting motorists. We are the Government who abolished the previous Government’s fuel duty escalator, cut fuel duty by 1 pence per litre and scrapped the four increases that had been planned over the Parliament. By the end of this Parliament, fuel duty will have been frozen for nearly four and a half years—the longest duty freeze in over 20 years—which I know that my right hon. Friend and, of course, the good people of Chelmsford will warmly welcome.
 
Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): Could the Minister tell the House how much per litre VAT has added to the price of petrol?
 
Priti Patel: Simple answer: a lot less than it would have been under Labour.
 
 

Growth in Average Earnings

 
10. Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab): What recent estimate he has made of the difference between the rate of inflation and the rate of growth in average earnings since May 2010. [905053]
 
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Priti Patel): We recognise that times have been tough for hard-working people. However, the Government have taken decisive action in getting more people into work than ever before—cutting taxes for hard-working families through increases in personal allowances, freezing council tax and fuel duty, cutting energy bills, and providing tax-free child care up to £2,000.
 
Chi Onwurah: In July the Chancellor came to Newcastle to announce that the economy was back on track. Office for National Statistics figures show that the real value of average wages in the north-east has fallen by £1,811 per year since this Government came into power. Is that what he means by “on track”—falling wages for working people and tax cuts for millionaires?
 
Priti Patel: The hon. Lady will know that our economy is recovering from the deepest debt-fuelled recession in living memory. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has made it clear that there have been very significant falls in real earnings as a direct but delayed response to the 2008 recession. In the light of this honest assessment, she will know that the only way to raise living standards in a sustainable way is to tackle the country’s economic problems head on.
 
20. [905066] Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best indications of the rate of growth is the increase in jobs, and that with over 1.8 million more jobs now in the economy than over the past four years, more women in work than ever before, and youth unemployment falling dramatically, that all indicates that our long-term economic plan is working and that as regards the economic policies of the Opposition, the wheel may be turning but the hamster is dead?
 
Priti Patel: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has made the case very clearly that there are strong economic indicators out there that are testament to the Government’s long-term economic plan. Quite frankly, this country is going forwards, not backwards.
 
Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): According to the most recent Office for National Statistics figures, child poverty in lone parent families where the parent is working full-time has risen from 17% to 22%. What are the Government doing to help those families to beat the rising cost of living?
 
Priti Patel: I re-emphasise the point that I made earlier: child poverty under this Government is down by 300,000. Inequality is being tackled very effectively by this Government through what we are doing to raise living standards and tackle the country’s economic problems head on.
 
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will my hon. Friend remind the House of the amount by which personal tax-free allowances have been increased since 2010 to help protect household budgets in an era of sluggish wage growth?
 
Priti Patel: As my hon. Friend will know, we have increased tax allowances by thousands of pounds to the new figure of £10,500, which will take an extra 3.2 million people out of tax.
 
 

Fuel Duty

 
17. Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effect of freezing fuel duty on the price of petrol. [905061]
 
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Priti Patel): I refer my hon. Friend to the response I gave earlier.
 
Mr Walker: I congratulate my hon. Friend on taking her well-earned place on the Front Bench. May I tell her that my constituents and, indeed, many businesses in Worcester have fed back how pleased they are that we have kept the fuel duty freeze in place and rejected calls from the Labour party to restore its fuel duty escalator? Will she remind the House what the cost would be to those people and businesses if we had gone along with the previous Government’s plans?
 
Priti Patel: I thank my hon. Friend for his warm welcome and kind remarks. This Government scrapped the previous Government’s fuel duty escalator, which would have increased fuel duty by 1p per litre above inflation from 2011 to 2014. Were it not for this Government’s very clear actions on fuel duty since 2011, current pump prices would be 16p per litre higher and would be nearly 20p per litre higher by the end of this Parliament. I know that my hon. Friend’s constituents and businesses in Worcester will support the clear action that this Government have taken.
 

 

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