Zarah Sultana – 2022 Speech on the Cost of Living Crisis

The speech made by Zarah Sultana, the Labour MP for Coventry South, in the House of Commons on 17 May 2022.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The annual profits of oil giant Shell were £12 billion. BP’s profits were £9.5 billion. The company’s boss said that his pay had more than doubled to just under £5 million, and then the company complained that it is

“getting more cash than we know what to do with”.

In the next year, the combined profits of those two companies are expected to double to £40 billion.

It is not just oil giants; bankers’ bonuses are booming, too. They are higher than at any time since the 2008 financial crisis. Posh bars in the City say that they have had a run on their most expensive champagne. While the vast majority are struggling like never before, the wealthy few are raking it in. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that the booming incomes of the top 1% are driving rising inequality. It is a crisis for the majority, but a bonanza for the few.

This is not inevitable. This crisis was made in Downing Street. It is the result of political choices made by this Tory Government. Last year, they let Shell pay zero tax on North sea oil and gas production, with the Treasury actually paying Shell £92 million. Earlier this year, the Tories voted to give bankers a tax cut worth £1 billion a year, and just a week later they voted to slash social security payments in real terms and to cut pensions by about 4%, once inflation is factored in. A couple of months earlier, they implemented the biggest overnight cut in the history of the welfare state, scrapping the £20 a week universal credit uplift, and then they let energy bills soar by a whopping 54%. Their choices are why my constituents and millions of people across the country are struggling while the super-rich line their pockets.

We could choose to do things differently, and that is what amendment (f), tabled in my name, would do. It would use a windfall tax on oil giants to slash energy bills and bring energy companies into public ownership. It would give millions of workers a real pay rise, making the minimum wage a genuine living wage, and implement a real-terms public sector pay rise. It would rebuild the social security safety net, with a real-terms increase in social security and pensions, including restoring the £20 a week universal credit uplift. It would pay for that by raising taxes on the richest, not on ordinary workers, including an end to the tax-dodging loopholes that Conservative Members are so fond of, including the non-dom status. Instead of the political choice to squeeze the livelihoods of working people, we could squeeze the profits of the rich. That is what my amendment would do, and I urge Members to back it.