Speaking in the House of Commons, Brooks Newmark highlights the economic achievements of the Government and measures taken to reduce the cost of living.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): It is always a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie), for whom I have great respect. Unfortunately, he can sometimes be a little dour and sees a glass of water as half empty rather than half full. I would rather talk about a glass of water being half full than half empty, so my speech might have a more positive tone than his.
The Government have made huge strides to clean up the economic mess created in 2010. As the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said on Wednesday 13 November:
“Inflation is now as low as it has been since 2009. Jobs are being created at a rate of 60,000 per month. The economy is growing at its fastest pace in 6 years. For the first time in a long time you don’t have to be an optimist to see the glass as half full.”
Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
Mr Newmark: No.
the Governor of the Bank of England says,
“has finally taken hold.”
If I may, I would like to begin by highlighting some of the economic achievements of this Government since 2010. The Government have cut the budget deficit by a third. The Government have helped the private sector create 1.4 million new jobs, offsetting any jobs lost in the public sector by 3:1. The Government have ensured that borrowing costs have fallen to record lows, saving money for taxpayers, businesses and families alike. The Government have helped bring inflation down to 2.2% as of October 2013. That is important because of the damaging effect that rising prices can have on the cost of living. The Government have helped bring back growth to the UK economy, with growth now projected to be 2.9% by year end 2014. The Government have ensured that the UK has more men and more women in work than ever before. The Government have seen the number of people claiming unemployment benefit fall at the fastest rate since 1997. Indeed, in my constituency of Braintree, both unemployment and youth unemployment are down 20% in the past year alone.
David Rutley: My hon. Friend sets out an impressive track record of achievement in the economy. Does he also recognise that our economic growth in the UK is projected to be the fastest in any country in Europe?
Mr Newmark: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I am just getting to that point.
David Rutley: Oh, I see.
Mr Newmark: Furthermore, British manufacturing recently reported the strongest growth on record, exceeding that in every quarter since 1989, and Reuters recently reported that growth in UK services is the strongest in 16 years. The Government have indeed achieved much to rebalance our economy.
Finally on economic performance, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley) just mentioned, according to the OECD the UK has the fastest growth in the developed world, beating the US, Germany and Japan. So by almost every benchmark, the UK has made huge strides in turning around the UK economy, and the Chancellor and his team at the Treasury should be congratulated on sticking with plan A and ensuring that the UK is on the path to recovery.
The Government also have much to be proud of on the cost of living. The 2013 Budget raised the personal tax allowance to £10,000 from April 2014. That ensured a tax cut for 25 million people, with individuals paying an average of £705 less in income tax than they did in 2010. Indeed, 2.7 million people have been taken out of tax altogether, thereby reducing the cost of living.
Ian Paisley rose—
Mr Newmark: The Government have already reduced energy bills by £193 by removing the green levies imposed by the Leader of the Opposition and are ensuring that energy companies offer the lowest tariffs to customers, thereby reducing the cost of living.
The Government have frozen fuel duty for the longest period in more than 20 years, with pump prices 13p per litre lower than when Labour was in power. Indeed, the average motorist will save at least £170, the average van driver will save £340 and the average haulier will save £5,200 each year as a result, thereby reducing the cost of living.
Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman and his party must be greatly relieved to be able to report an increase in GDP, given that in June 2010 the Office for Budget Responsibility was predicting that it would be 2.5%, 2.5% and 2.6% in the three years coming. So it must be a big relief to have at last turned the corner.
Mr Newmark: Yes, it is a big relief, but as anyone in business knows—I had been in business for 20 years before I came to this place—turning around a business, particularly in an economy that was as messed up as that created by the Labour Government, takes a while. Progress is not necessarily linear. What we do have is growth returning. That is recognised by the Governor of the Bank of England, the OECD and the International Monetary Fund.
Mr Ellwood: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Mr Newmark: I cannot give way; I have allowed the two interventions I am permitted.
Furthermore, the Government froze council tax in 2013-14 for the third year in a row. The combined effect of the Government’s actions means that council tax bills, which doubled under the previous Government, have fallen by 9.5% since 2010, thereby again reducing the cost of living. The Government have increased child care support for low-income working families on universal credit, thereby reducing the cost of living. In 2011, child tax credit increased by £225—the largest increase ever—and in April this year, it went up by 5.2%, a further increase of £135, thereby reducing the cost of living. The Government introduced the triple lock, which means that pensions increase every year by price inflation, earnings growth or 2.5%, whichever is highest. Over the course of their retirement, the average pensioner will be about £12,000 better off under the triple lock, which helps with the cost of living.
Furthermore, the Government introduced the warm home discount scheme, which gives pensioners a £120 rebate on their electricity bill, thereby reducing the cost of living. The Government have increased cold weather payments permanently from a measly £8.50 under the previous Government to £25, thereby reducing the cost of living.