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Economic Growth and Employment

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2019

The Government have worked hard to build a stronger, fairer economy. The economy has grown continuously for the past nine years, employment is currently at a record high, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate since 1975 and real wages are rising.

It is welcome that 75% of those new jobs are full-time and only 3% are zero-hours contracts. It is also welcome that the minimum wage has gone up by 38% since 2010, but what assurance can the Minister give that the policy of dramatically increasing the minimum wage to help the poorest in our society will continue?

I can confirm that the national living wage will rise again this year, to £8.21. I can also tell my hon. Friend that later this year the Low Pay Commission will be set a new remit for beyond 2020. We want to be ambitious, with the ultimate objective of ending low pay in the UK while protecting employment for lower-paid workers.

I suspect the Minister knows that it will be more difficult to increase jobs in services businesses if we replace single market membership with a free trade agreement. Will he set out for the House what estimate he has made of the scale of the difficulty, particularly that facing financial services businesses that want to increase jobs in the current Brexit situation?

Financial services are well protected and ready to engage on arrangements for beyond the implementation period, but the Government are not complacent in respect of the whole economy. We have made a series of interventions through our productivity fund to meet the challenges of the next generation.

Whenever the Government table self-congratulatory questions like that one, there is a need to put on record what is really happening out there. Six million jobs in the UK pay less than the real living wage, 3.8 million people are in insecure employment and 2.5 million people work less than 15 hours a week. Economic growth, where it exists, is so geographically unequal that it does not reflect the reality of what people see around them. Let me ask, on behalf of those people: what is this Government’s strategy for in-work poverty and insecure employment?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. This Government’s strategy is to relentlessly pursue growth in the economy and opportunities for all. We have seen 18.3% growth since 2010, and a record 32.6 million people in work. We will continue to prioritise interventions around technical education, cuts in business taxes and support for new technologies to recognise the new jobs that need to be provided for.