A senior Conservative backbencher has called on the Government to bring forward a £13.5 billion ‘summer package’ of support, telling MPs: “We must all recognise the cost-of-living crisis – yes crisis.”
Sir Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, urged the Treasury to “adapt” and “accept this new global energy and economic crisis also requires a very substantial policy response”.
Speaking during the Queen’s Speech Commons debate on achieving economic growth, he said: “A summer package to rescue the most vulnerable households is needed to avoid real financial distress and personal anguish and to support economic demand of the most vulnerable households, or we are creating possibly a worse recession than is already expected.”
He added: “Like after the unforeseen Covid crisis, the Treasury must adapt to this unexpected war in Europe and accept this new global energy and economic crisis also requires a very substantial policy response.”
Sir Bernard suggested the £20 uplift in Universal Credit “should immediately be restored”, adding: “The abolition of VAT on domestic fuel would abolish a regressive tax which actually hurts the poorest households the most, we can do this now we’re outside the EU.”
The Government, he said, should “abolish the green levies on energy bills and fund them from the Exchequer”, adding: “The Government should provide pensioners and poorer families with the confidence they can afford to stay warm.
“We should double the Warm Home Discount and treble the Winter Fuel Payment. This package would cost not £3 billion, but £13.5 billion from July in this current tax year, but that’s still less than the recent tax increases we’ve seen.”
He said: “Even before today’s shock rise in CPI to 9%, the Commons Library had given me striking projections for the effect of this on households. The full year of cost of just energy and food prices will rise by well over £1,000 per year for the lowest 20% of households by income. And by £1,500 per year for pensioner households.”
Sir Bernard also urged the Government to “consider relief for middle income households”, saying: “The lower 40% of households will feel severe stress from energy and food costs alone.”
He said: “I have watched governments and oppositions and I think we saw it today blindsided by their own commitment to outdated thinking and policies in the past.
“There is no excuse for another such episode and … the chief secretary (to the Treasury Simon Clarke) is right to sound cautious, but we can see what is coming and I am confident this Government will act as it must.”