12 July 2023

Angela Rayner and Oliver Dowden clash over Conservatives’ economic record

12 July 2023

Rising bills, soaring mortgages and plummeting real wages are “pushing more and more families to the brink”, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has warned, as she challenged the Deputy Prime Minister over the Government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis.

Oliver Dowden countered that Labour “seem very keen on hugging that magic money tree” as the pair clashed in the Commons over the Conservatives’ economic record, adding that “balancing the books means more than working out how many millions to take from her union paymasters”.

Ms Rayner compared the UK’s current mortgage woes with those faced by the Conservative government in the 1990s as she opened Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

Standing in for Sir Keir Starmer while Rishi Sunak is at the Nato summit in Lithuania, she noted the “last time a prime minister missed two sessions in a row with other engagements, which was March 1996”.

She said: “I am very proud to be filling the boots of Lord John Prescott, but I think it is safe to say he (Mr Dowden) is no (Lord Michael) Heseltine.

“Why is it, John Prescott asked, that in Tory Britain, tens of thousands of families are facing repossession, negative equity and homelessness? Can he tell us, 27 years later, why I am having to ask the same question?”

Mr Dowden replied: “Her old boss (Jeremy Corbyn) wanted to abandon Ukraine, abolish the Army and withdraw from Nato, and he certainly wouldn’t be going to any summit.”

He added: “My parents would not have been able to buy their own home if it were not for Margaret Thatcher and the reforms introduced by her government, and this Government is building on those with record housebuilding.”

Raising child poverty, Ms Rayner asked: “I am proud of our record on tackling child poverty, does he feel ashamed of his?”

Mr Dowden replied: “I will tell you what this Government has done, we have lifted 400,000 children out of child poverty.

“We have introduced the national living wage, something the party opposite totally failed to do, and increased the national living wage by the largest amount ever, meaning £1,800 for working people and cutting their taxes by doubling the personal allowance.

“That is the surest way to ensure we lift people out of poverty and would never have happened with the party opposite.”

Ms Rayner said: “The truth is, rising bills, soaring mortgages and plummeting real wages are pushing more and more families to the brink. Those already struggling are being hit hardest by the Tory mortgage bombshell and rising food costs.”

Asked by Ms Rayner how many primary school children have been “pushed into poverty” since the Government took power, Mr Dowden replied: “It is this party, not the party opposite, which extended free school meals to all five, six and seven-year-olds, something the party opposite failed to do, and it sits alongside many measures we’re taking to help people with the cost of living.”

Ms Rayner said the Conservatives had “crashed the economy”, adding: “He seems to be completely oblivious to what it’s like for working people in this country at the moment.”

She added: “What matters is what people feel every single day at the moment who are going to work and can’t afford their mortgage, can’t afford their rent and can’t afford their bills because of this Conservative Government.

“There are 55,000 more children without a permanent address today compared to when they took office 13 years ago. We’ve gone from a Labour cabinet focused on tackling child poverty to Tory ministers who won’t even admit the problem.

“Just like the Question Time in March 1996, they can only offer excuses, and not answers. Lord John Prescott said to Lord Michael Heseltine that day: ‘How can (he) be so complacent in the face of sheer misery created by his Government’s policies?’ Twenty-seven years on, why are we asking the exact same thing?”

Mr Dowden replied: “It is this Government that has lifted 400,000 children out of poverty… I hear (her) claiming to be the party of working people, but under their policies, people can’t even get to work. They support Just Stop Oil protesters blocking our roads.

“They support their union paymasters stopping our trains and of course they support the the hated Ulez (Ultra Low Emission Zone) stopping cars across our capital.

“While Conservatives get Britain moving, Labour are standing in everyone’s way.”

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