Welsh Conservative MPs accused of being ‘hideously out of touch’ with public on rise in energy bills
Welsh Conservative MPs have been accused of being “hideously out of touch” with the public on the cost-of-living crisis, including the rise in energy bills.
Last week all Welsh Conservative MPs apart from Sarah Atherton of Wrexham and Stephen Crabb of Preseli Pembrokeshire voted against cutting a Labour motion to cut VAT on energy bills. Both Atherton and Crabb abstained.
Later the same week it was revealed that one Conservative MP had claimed thousands in utility bills from the taxpayer. Ynys Môn’s MP Virginia Crosbie claimed a total of £2,634.12 in utilities in the 2020-21 financial year, placing her in the top 10 MPs to claim the most.
Polling from Savanta ComRes has found 75 per cent of Conservative Party voters would back a new windfall tax on oil and gas companies to fund households struggling to afford rising energy prices.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said that the polling showed Welsh Conservative MPs of being “hideously out of touch” with the public on the cost-of-living crisis, including the rapid rise in energy bills.
“Many of the areas set to be worst hit by rising energy bills have Conservative MPs including Montgomeryshire, Brecon & Radnorshire, Ynys Mon, Aberconwy, Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire,” she said.
“Some like Fay Jones MP have even been as out of touch as to claim ‘a few quid’ isn’t important, despite the fact this can make the difference between having to choose whether to eat or stay warm for many families across the worst affected areas of Wales, including in her seat of Brecon & Radnorshire where 17% of households live in fuel poverty.
“Oil and gas companies are making the largest profits they have made in years, yet Welsh Conservative MPs seem to care more about protecting the profits of these global giants than they do about making sure their constituents don’t fall into poverty.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for a Robin Hood tax on oil and gas giants while supporting the doubling and expansion of the warm home discount scheme and the doubling of winter fuel payments.”
Responding to the Labour motion on cutting VAT on fuel bills in the House of Commons last week, Fay Jones said that it was “designed to do nothing more than construct a misleading trope for social media”.
“The cost of living is hitting hard in Brecon and Radnorshire, but that is on top of other pressures that are ignored by the Labour Government in Cardiff,” she said.
“We have next to no public transport, so we are forced to drive everywhere in cars powered by ever more expensive fuel.
“Our broadband is slow on a good day, because funding is targeted at densely populated and, curiously, Labour-voting areas.
“Our schools have to close and our council tax is higher because our local authority has been given one of the lowest budget allocations in Wales for the last 10 years.
“If only we could have the level of investment and support that has been directed at the cities and the south Wales valleys, household bills in rural areas such as Brecon and Radnorshire would be lower.”
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP Gerald Jones spoke in favour of the motion to cut VAT for household energy bills, saying that families in his constituency “face a bleak start to the new year”.
“The Welsh Labour Government have already announced a £38 million winter fuel support scheme that directly supports families to cover their energy costs and keep their homes warm this winter,” he said.
“That demonstrates the Welsh Government’s willingness to offer support to those most in need. The Welsh Government never shied away from trying to support families through the crisis. We now need the UK Government, with all their financial clout, to step up to the plate and deliver for those who need it most at this most difficult time.
“I urge all Members, particularly those on the Conservative Benches, to do the decent thing and support the Opposition motion.”
Arfon MP said that it was a “plain fact” that energy prices would rise enormously.
“The question is, of course, what we do about that and about the long-term cost of living crisis, which predates the pandemic, and particularly child poverty, which has been tragically high and indeed endemic in Wales for decades, since the deliberate destruction of our heavy industry for political reasons over 40 years ago and the neglect of manufacturing, all leading to chronic, deep poverty.
He added that the £20 cut in Universal Credit had ” pushed 275,000 Welsh families even further into poverty”.
“The Government say that work is the answer to poverty. Forty per cent. of Welsh households claiming universal credit are already in work, and many are key workers, so the £20 uplift should be reinstated and extended to those on legacy benefits,” he said.
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