At the beginning of this speech I said that the combination of healthy growth and low inflation we are now seeing is virtually unprecedented in Britain's recent past. Few doubt the strength of the recovery. But everyone in touch with the real world knows that the benefits of recovery have yet to feed through to many people in this country. Unemployment remains far too high.
Thanks to the labour market and trade union reforms of the 1980s, unemployment did start falling at a much earlier stage of this recovery than it had in recent previous recoveries and, unlike other European countries, we have resisted pressures to add social costs on top of wage costs for our employers.
Unemployment will, of course, fall further as the economy recovers. But I have long believed, as my panel of independent forecasters points out and as is now widely recognised, that demand expansion on its own is not enough to produce a sufficient fall in unemployment. We have to do more to reduce unemployment in ways which are consistent with sustained growth and low inflation.
I have been making speeches on this and giving lectures ever since I became Chancellor on the need to ensure that we do not have recovery without jobs. As well as giving speeches, I have already done something about it. In my last Budget, I did three things.
I announced measures to make it harder for people who are quite capable of working to stay on benefit without looking for a job. That is at the heart of the job seeker's allowance. I made it easier for people with children to take jobs, by introducing a child care allowance into family credit. I made it cheaper for employers to give people work, by cutting the lower rates of employers' national insurance contributions by a full percentage point.
In this Budget I want to do more on all three fronts. We must get people back into work and out of dependency on benefit. We must reduce—not increase—the cost to employers of employing people who have been out of work. I aim to ensure that we do not have a class of people in this country who are excluded from economic activity.