Last week’s Autumn Statement is an extraordinary contrast to that delivered four years ago, when Britain quite literally had its economic back to the wall. Four years on, the Chancellor’s Statement clearly shows that a rising economic tide is lifting all parts of our country and all parts of our economy. This result is a tribute to the Chancellor, who devised his long term economic plan for Britain, and has since stuck with it through thick and thin, refusing to be blown off course by politicians and commentators who criticised it and urged him to waver and change.
The Statement demonstrates the clear benefits for all our fellow citizens from falling unemployment, falling inflation and a falling deficit. Few people would have expected projected economic growth this year to be 3%, with manufacturing growth at its fastest rate for years. Not only is unemployment falling fast, but employment is at its highest level ever and the Chancellor’s determination to abolish youth unemployment is particularly welcome, as are the measures he has taken to advantage young people in getting into the world of work.
But there is still much work to be done to deliver our long term economic plan. The announcements last week of the overhaul of stamp duty means that 98% of stamp duty payers will pay less tax when they buy homes. Support for business to create jobs will also be increased, with action on business rates and more help for local businesses. Businesses will also be encouraged to hire apprentices through the abolition of the jobs tax on apprenticeships for people under 25, giving the next generation the skills they need for the future. Savers will also be supported through the decision to let husbands and wives inherit their partner’s ISA and keep its tax free status, while families will benefit from the abolition of air passenger duty paid for children.
As Sutton Coldfield’s MP, the creation of a Northern Powerhouse sets an important example for those of us who want to see economic regeneration intensify in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, which have faced such difficulty as a result of the last economic recession.
It is of course true that the deficit remains worryingly high, and further steps must be taken to bring it down. But the achievement of reducing the deficit by a half during this Parliament is extraordinarily important and will give international markets confidence that Britain is on the right track economically, as we seek to continue to borrow very significant sums of money.