That could be a foolhardy move at this point in time. When a number of businesses are struggling, it could tip some of them over the edge.
Another issue that I want to raise is the level of economic inactivity. When there is a long-term crisis in the economy, the long-term unemployed eventually stop searching for work and leave the job market altogether. Fortunately, we have not yet reached that point.
There are worrying signs, but this evening the Government are clearly taking pleasure in the fact that we are not experiencing anything that looks as severe as the situation at the beginning of the last recession in 1992-93, when the Tories were in power. However, I want to flag up a couple of concerns about the Government's record. The Government have wasted a great opportunity. In 1997, when they came in, there were extraordinarily favourable conditions for introducing radical welfare reform. There was sustained growth, and the Government put a huge amount of money into welfare reform, but the reforms have been patchy at best. There are persistently high incapacity benefit claimant counts and persistent levels of poverty.
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