Cost of Living: Benefit Levels

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons am 2:34 pm ar 13 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration) 2:34, 13 Tachwedd 2023

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of benefit levels in the context of rises in the cost of living.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Government have never spent more on welfare and benefit support than we presently do. From April 2023, we uprated benefits by 10.1% and increased the benefit cap levels by the same amount. That is on top of the cost of living support that has been made to multiple households and individuals to address the rising cost of bills.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration)

I thank the Minister for that answer, but he will be aware that the Trussell Trust has warned that food banks are at “breaking point”, as more and more people across the UK are unable to afford the essentials, with new figures showing that 1.5 million emergency food parcels were distributed through the charity’s network between April and September this year. Will the Minister therefore back its joint campaign with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation calling for an essentials guarantee within universal credit, to ensure that the basic rate at least covers life’s essentials and that support can never fall below that level?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Member will be aware that there has been £94 billion of cost of living support over and above the 10.1% increase in benefit rates. That support is over 2022-23 and 2023-24. For example, the winter fuel payment will be paid to the tune of £600 or £500 over the next few weeks.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Ceidwadwyr, Amber Valley

Would the Minister agree that the journey we have been on with benefit rates for the last decade and a half has perhaps been a little haphazard, and it is pretty unclear to most people exactly what basket of goods and services benefits are actually meant to buy? If the Minister does not agree with the case for an essentials guarantee, will the Government commission their own study to work out if benefits are at the right level?

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, which is clearly a matter for the Secretary of State and the Chancellor when they make their decisions on uprating, and I am sure they will take that on board. There are always ongoing discussions about how one assesses this process but, with respect, this is the system we have had for some considerable period of time.