HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By local MP John Hayes
There’s something about the recent performance of the British economy that reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s description of Alice after she eats the cake labelled ‘eat me’. ‘Curiouser and curiouser’ she cries, as she grows rapidly.
The welcome figures this week from the Office for National Statistics show the British economy growing at a rate that rivals Alice – 2.6 per cent last year.
To the surprise of some, that’s the fastest growth of any major economy in 2014. In fact it was the best year for growth since 2007, and with the economy now 3.4 per cent above its pre-recession peak it is crystal clear that Britain’s recovery demonstrates the importance of getting our nation’s finances under control.
What a contrast with our European continental neighbours, mired in recession, with soaring unemployment and an unloved and devaluing single currency.
We must be mindful, however, of the risks in the global economy and not be tempted to take our change in fortunes for granted. But as we have got spending under control, cut the benefits bill and reduced the deficit we are certainly well on the way to building a stronger, healthier economy – boosting businesses and creating jobs.
The most startling success of the last few years is the remarkable fall in unemployment; down by over half a million since May 2010. Here in South Holland and Deepings unemployment is extraordinarily low – just 1.6 per cent, compared to 3.7 per cent five years ago.
Britain is, as the Prime Minister recently declared, the “jobs factory of Europe”, with more people in work than ever before. Pay is now rising too – up 1.8 per cent last year, above inflation.
The number of job vacancies have reached a 14-year record high, and youth unemployment has dropped dramatically too – the number of young people claiming Job Seekers Allowance is at its lowest level since the 1970s.
Contrary to doom-mongers’ predictions, over three quarters of the new jobs are full time and taken by local people, not foreigners, and full time posts accounted for 95 per cent of the rise in employment over the past year.
And the jobs boom is reaching those previously left behind – there are now a quarter of a million more disabled people in work in Britain this year compared to last.
More people are moving off benefits and into work, whereas previously too many in our society were written off, and trapped in unemployment and welfare dependency. More people now with a regular income can build a secure future for their family.
We are bearing down on those who, in the past, preferred a lazy lifetime on benefits to hard work. But reforming welfare is about changing people’s lives – it’s a moral mission, the purpose of which is fairness; helping those that can to prosper by their own effort whilst supporting those in need.
It’s clear, more than ever, that we have a choice – to continue on the certain path to more growth, jobs and greater prosperity, or like Alice, be tempted to drink from a bottled labelled ‘drink me’ and disappear, once again, down the rabbit hole to who knows where.