All unemployment fell. Then, once the scale of the global recession we confronted became apparent, it of course went back up again. What we never had under a Labour Administration is unemployment going up through the 3 million mark—not once but twice, as it did under the Conservatives. Every job lost is a tragedy for one family, and all the jobs lost are a tragedy for all of us—and, indeed, for the Exchequer. Lost jobs mean not only that our performance as a country cannot match our full potential, but that a bill is created that we all end up paying.
The Governor of the Bank of England has warned us of what is to come. He says that we now confront the biggest squeeze on living standards since the 1930s, and that because this Government’s economic plan is creating so few jobs, there is less and less demand for workers. Now there are five people chasing every job and the growth in people’s pay packets and wages is slow. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts 2% earnings growth this year, 2.2% next year, but when prices are growing by more than 5% this year and 3.6% next year, the squeeze on family budgets is now all too obvious.
In the circumstances, one would have thought that the Government would step in to help. Not a bit of it. Next month 10 Tory raids on the family budget get into full swing: tax credits cut for families earning more than £40,000; tougher criteria on families wanting to claim family support; reducing the income disregard; freezing basic rates of working tax credit; removing the baby element of child tax credit; reducing payable costs of child care; abolition of grants for pregnant mums; £500 taken away from families with more than one child; child benefit increases ruled out for another three years; and cancelling the child savings accounts.
This Government are proud of some of the measures foisted on them by Liberal Democrat Members. I am sure that is right. Once we take this list into account, however, £1.1 billion is going to be stripped from family budgets starting from next month, with another £300 million coming from children. By the end of this Parliament, £16.5 billion will have been taken out of family pay packets.