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Average Earnings

Volume 565: debated on Tuesday 25 June 2013

12. What recent estimate he has made of the rate of increase of average earnings compared to the rate of consumer price inflation. (161229)

The best way to deal with today’s cost of living challenges is to have paid employment. In 2012, the number of people employed in the UK has risen faster than most of our competitors, including the US, France, Germany and Japan. As a result, household income has risen by 2.1% more than consumer prices over the past year.

Despite what the Minister has just said, the Office for Budget Responsibility says that living standards for many will be lower in 2015 than they were in 2010. Is it not the case that, while the rich and super-rich benefit from tax cuts, working people and their families are worse off? Is not the truth that we are not all in it together?

No, certainly not. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about this issue. The hon. Gentleman became a Member of Parliament in 2010, and he will know that in the last term of the stewardship of the previous Government, his constituency saw paid employment fall, and unemployment rise by a staggering 67%. Paid employment is the best way to raise living standards, and 1.3 million new private sector jobs have been created in the past three years. More people are in employment than at any other time in the history of this country.

On living costs and standards, can my hon. Friend tell me how much more my constituents would have to pay to fill a tank with petrol if we had adopted the previous Government’s fuel price rises?

My hon. Friend highlights an important point. We scrapped Labour’s fuel duty escalator; we have frozen their escalator. Petrol prices are 13p per litre lower than if we had kept the policies of the previous Government.

Does the Minister see any correlation between wages being £1,300 a year less than they were at the time of the election and the number of people who are in work turning up at food banks?

What I see is jobs being created in the private sector at a record rate in this country—1.3 million jobs in the past three years; a faster rate of job creation than any other G7 country last year. If the hon. Gentleman really cared about his constituents, he would welcome that.

What has the effect been of Government policies not just on petrol but on keeping interest rates low, freezing council tax, cutting income tax and helping pensioners?

My hon. Friend has raised the issue of interest rates. If we had not had a credible policy to deal with the record budget deficit that the previous Government left behind, interest rates would be a lot higher. In fact, in the last Budget delivered by them, interest payments on Government debt would have been £30 billion higher in this Parliament. If interest rates were just 1% higher, mortgages would rise by almost £1,000 a year for the average household.