Our greatest achievement in Government has been bringing our economy back from the brink of Labour’s disaster.
Today, we have delivered an Autumn Statement that clearly shows we are making real progress in rebuilding our economy after the ‘car crash’ Labour years. Growth is improving. There are record levels of employment. Business confidence is returning. Even the most cynical commentators are accepting that the economy is turning the corner.
All of us, in every part of our Party should feel proud. This recovery would not have been possible without us, and neither would the vast majority of the positive measures in today’s Autumn Statement.
In fact, setting the Tory Marriage Tax break to one side, the Autumn Statement is packed full of Liberal Democrat ideas.
Nick Clegg was right to tell Parliament yesterday that the recovery would not be happening without the Liberal Democrats.
To deliver fairness, we need a stable and growing economy. Our economy grew by the highest amount of any G7 country in the period July to September. We’ve delivered the climate in which UK businesses have been able to create 1.4 Million jobs. All this, whilst keeping on track to halve the deficit by 2015.
And we’re not just investing in Britain’s infrastructure. We are making sure that we are building the economic foundations of our country by investing in our young people. We’ve helped our young people by investing £40 Million to boost the number of apprenticeships by 20,000. We’ve increased the number of people who can go to university. And we’ve boosted employment opportunities for young people by scrapping the National Insurance contributions that companies have to pay on employees under 21.
We’ve recognised the importance of small and medium sized businesses too – the ‘engine room’ of our economy, by knocking £1,000 off the rates bill for small retail premises to help our High Streets. And we’ve extended schemes that mean 360,000 small businesses will pay no business rates at all.
Because we have a sound plan to tackle the economic aftermath of the Labour years, we’ve also been able to take decisive measures to help families through the tough times. We’ve frozen Fuel Duty. We are saving families £50 on their electricity/gas bills. We’ve extended free school meals to all 5 to 7 year olds and have further capped rail fares. And don’t forget that by April next year, the income tax cuts that we promised in our manifesto will make working people £700 a year better off.
There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done. But we are making real progress and I hope you’ll feel able to tell that story with pride.
Danny Alexander MP