We have a record number of people in work. Today’s GDP data show that Britain continues to outperform other western economies, but there are clear global risks and there is still much more to be done to fix our economy. In the autumn statement, we will take more steps to ensure the recovery is felt right across the country, make long-term investments for the future, and, crucially, continue to make the tough decisions required so that Britain lives within her means.
It is very good to hear about the success the people in my hon. Friend’s constituency have had in finding work over recent years and the clear business confidence that exists in Oxfordshire. The Henley college is doing an excellent job in making sure that young people have the skills they need to take the opportunities now out there in the jobs market. We will, of course, go on helping such institutions by increasing the number of apprentices we fund in this country, so that we deliver the 3 million apprenticeships mentioned in our election manifesto.
Unemployment in my constituency has fallen by 50% since 2010, but, given the recent news about the difficulties in Caparo in the west midlands, we must not be complacent. Does the Chancellor agree that we need to do more to invest in training and skills, such as the new advanced science, engineering and technology centre at Halesowen college, so we can equip local people with the skills they need to take future opportunities?
I visited with my hon. Friend a number of the very successful businesses in his constituency; they are exactly the kind of small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of the British economy. They need help with their training, and Halesowen college can help to provide that training to the young people in the area, so they can get the jobs that are being created in his area.
The Chancellor claims he is on the side of working people but, as far as I can see, he has been afraid to publish an impact assessment of changes to working tax credits on people taking up or remaining in work. Will he guarantee, given last night’s decision and the delay, to look at that and that, in any proposals, he will include an impact assessment on people taking up work, increasing their hours or staying in work and how that affects employment levels?
We have published an impact assessment, an equalities assessment and a distributional analysis of the measures we produced in the Budget. None of those were ever produced by any Labour Chancellor, so we continue to provide the information that people seek. What matters above all is getting the central judgment right about fixing our economy, making sure we deal with our deficit, and going on delivering economic security for the people the right hon. Lady represents.
The Chancellor is fond of telling us about 2 million more people in employment, and then he usually does a little facial lap of honour of the Chamber. Has he estimated how many of those 2 million people would be hit by his proposed changes to tax credits? How many would he be comfortable with still hitting in any revised changes?
The measures to save welfare—as I say, we will help with the transition—come alongside the increase in the national living wage, the increase in the personal allowance and the action we have taken to cut social rents. They are all part of a package that is delivering economic security to the people in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman remembers what the situation was like five or six years ago in Northern Ireland: high unemployment, a lack of business investment and people looking for work. Now we are in a situation where jobs are being created and people are finding work. Do I say that everything has been done that needs to be done? Absolutely not. We have more to do to bring jobs and investment to Northern Ireland. Let us work together to make that happen.
My local council keeps bleating on about cuts, saying how they are going to affect everybody living there. But, on the front page of a newspaper, a management consultancy company that the council brought in said that in my constituency and the region, 10,000 jobs are going to be created over the next five years. [Interruption.] Yes, very lucky. Does the Chancellor agree that his economic policies have put that on track and that my area of the world is going forward, making it better for the people who live there?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As a result of the combination of him being a very effective local MP and the fact that we have a Conservative Prime Minister and a Conservative Government, we are delivering more jobs into my hon. Friend’s part of Lancashire. Indeed, I remember on visits with him seeing the work being done on the link road to the port, which for decades—including when there were Labour MPs representing the constituency—was campaigned for, but never delivered. Now it is actually being built and delivered as a result of my hon. Friend’s local efforts.
Contrary to what the Chancellor believes, my party does want to deal with the deficit; we just think he is going about it the wrong way. We are worried about certain employment trends. The Solar Trade Association, for example, has warned that up to 27,000 jobs could be at risk due the Government’s announcement of the withdrawal of support for solar energy schemes. What steps do the Government propose to take to avoid large-scale redundancies and this employment trend in the solar industry and what support will the Government offer to the industry?
Of course we are in a constant dialogue with the solar industry, and solar energy use has dramatically increased over the last five years, but so have the costs of that technology. Quite reasonably, then, we have reduced the subsidy going to solar. There has to be consistency in what Labour Members argue for. On the one hand, they say, quite reasonably, “Please deal with the energy prices that are affecting the steel industry”, but then their spokesman gets up and says, “Please add more cost on to energy bills in order to subsidise renewables.” The trouble is we cannot have both.