The speech made by Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.
In the time I have, I will focus on two groups who have been in touch with me on the cost of living crisis. Many colleagues have outlined the scale of the problem facing the country. The latest Bank of England forecast is that inflation will peak at 10.2% in the fourth quarter of 2022. Alongside that, domestic gas prices have increased by 28% and electricity prices by 19%. The OBR expects that household incomes will not begin to recover until the second half of 2024. The devastating combination of increases amounts to such a battering on household incomes that the Resolution Foundation estimates an extra 1.3 million people will fall into absolute poverty in 2023, including half a million children.
There is one group in particular who I know have felt particularly vulnerable to the increase in costs: those living with disabilities and families caring for loved ones with disabilities. I want to pay tribute to my constituents Nadia Clarke and her mum Katie, who are both inspirational and tireless campaigners. Nadia had to spend months challenging her care payments when they went up from £15 to £68 per week. Nadia is not alone. Too many are having to make substantial contributions to financing essential care, while also facing price increases across the board. The latest data from Citizens Advice is that 60% of those who contacted them with fuel poverty concerns in 2021 were disabled people. Research undertaken by the charity Scope demonstrated that the extra costs faced by disabled people add up to £583 a month on average. It stated:
“Energy for powering essential equipment, such as hoists, beds, breathing equipment, powered chairs and monitors was already expensive.”
It stressed that
“these are not optional extras that can be cut back. This is vital, often life-saving, equipment.”
In an online video that Nadia shared, she says:
“it is not acceptable for disabled people to be forced to pay care charges and choose between the support they need and food on the table.”
She is absolutely right.
Similarly, last week I was contacted by a gentleman who raised concerns for his sister-in-law, who lives in Halifax. She is on oxygen for 16 hours every day. Her husband is her main carer, but he is also recovering from cancer. Faced with unavoidable additional electricity bills and heating costs, they were feeling desperate about their situation. Thankfully, they have been able to arrive at an arrangement on their electricity bill with the company that supplies the oxygen, but it is just one more example of how the cost of living is proving unbearable for those who have additional needs.
Coming from a policing family, in my time here I have often sought to be an advocate for the men and women on the frontline keeping our communities safe. We hear just how badly the cost of living crisis is impacting even those working in our emergency services and on our frontline. That feels all the more shameful when we consider what we ask of them. In a recent Police Federation survey of its members in my area of West Yorkshire, 43% of respondents reported worrying about their personal finances every day or almost every day, and 12% reported never or almost never having enough money to cover all their essentials. A chief superintendent recently told me that PCs, and new recruits in particular, were increasingly seeking permission to work a second job on their rest days. One new recruit on a starting salary sought permission to work as a carer. It is perhaps no surprise that 94% of respondents said that they do not feel respected by the Government. The Government must do better.
The windfall tax would be a straightforward, fair and appropriate intervention for the Government to make. BP and Shell alone are on course to make a combined profit of almost £40 billion this year, and there is widespread public support for a windfall tax.