Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 4:48 pm ar 6 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:48, 6 Chwefror 2024

When I saw the amounts being talked about in this debate, I could not help but think about an organisation called Haringey Giving, which does brilliant work in my constituency. It was set up and managed by residents, and it allows various groups to make applications to it. In the five years that Haringey Giving has been operating, it proudly boasts that it has been able to support 136 local grassroots organisations and help thousands of people in the community through the provision of £900,000 of funding. That is £900,000 of funding painstakingly raised and distributed over five years, and it is still not as much as the amount that this Government were able to spend on severance payments in the single year of 2022-23.

When I have been knocking on doors—in recent times I have done rather a lot of that, in really interesting parts of the country—one thing that people have fed back to me is that they do not like chop and change. The motion is not, as Sir Michael Ellis suggested, a critique of salaries for doing political work such as being an MP in general; it is criticising the chop and change of the various Governments since 2019.

At Christmas, Haringey Giving held its annual fundraising drive, with local residents and businesses all playing their part, and it managed to raise £17,000. That is about the average amount received by the 20 Cabinet Ministers who claimed severance payments in 2022-23. In fact, Sir Brandon Lewis, who has been mentioned many times today, could have kept one of his severance payments and donated the other to Haringey Giving—if he is listening to the debate, he still has a chance to do that. That would have been double the total it raised in December.

I say that because it highlights the difference with the real world and the lives of so many of our constituents. When we talk about these severance payments, it is vital to remember exactly what is happening in the country as a whole, which we see at our advice surgeries. Sometimes families come to the advice surgery and a child has no teeth; they have stubs for teeth because there have been no dental appointments. I have heard from a family who have had a pair of shoes that one child wears to the sixth-form one day and then they are available at the weekend for another child to wear to do a part-time job. This is the sort of child poverty we are talking about.

The headline 12-month inflation rate started the year at 9% and ended it at 10%, and peaked at 11% in October 2022, the month in which 38 Ministers claimed severance payments. Food prices rose especially fast, with ordinary families facing a 19% increase in the cost of their weekly shop from March 2022 to March 2023. These amounts of money really matter because they buy things like food and shoes, and they should not be going into the pockets of Ministers who have failed and who have been through the revolving doors and become Ministers again.

The average pump price for petrol and diesel hit an all-time high, with petrol rising to £1.91 per litre in the last week of June 2022 and diesel hitting almost £2 per litre in the first week of July 2022, the same week that 21 Ministers claimed severance payments after joining the coup against Boris Johnson.

Of course, there are also mortgage payments. The Bank of England base rate started the year in April 2022 at 0.75% and ended the year in March 2023 at 4.25%, with the biggest spike taking place in the wake of the kamikaze Budget. Millions of households saw their mortgage rates soar and millions more have felt the pain since their fixed-rate deals have come to an end. That pain has been made all the worse thanks to the direct actions of the Government.

So there we have it: 2022-23, a year when families across the country were struggling more than ever in the face of the cost of living crisis—struggling to put food on the table, struggling to fill up their cars, struggling to pay their mortgages and keep a roof over their heads, facing impossible choices and having to make incredible sacrifices. That is without even mentioning the record peacetime tax burden that the Government have also imposed on the country during that period.

What were Tory Members doing while all this was going on? They were fighting with each other, and scrabbling around for promotions, pay rises, severance payments and resignation honours like they were prizes in a game show. During that disastrous year for the country, their only priority was looking after their own backs and filling their own boots. I hope that this evening they will think about their constituents struggling to make ends meet, and all the charities in our constituencies who work for every penny they raise. They should think about people at the Haringey Giving scheme scraping and striving to raise a few thousand pounds. They should show a bit of contrition and vote to let these reforms proceed.