I will repeat the words of my hon. Friend, who said that she was proud to stand in 2010 on a manifesto for a Labour Government who were committed to reducing the deficit but had an economy that was growing. Since then we have seen three years of stagnating growth, wages rising slower than prices, and borrowing not coming down anywhere near the amount the Government promised. I would caution Government Members against trying to rewrite in this Chamber the history of what they have achieved over the past three years.
On that point, let us return to 2011. The Bill taken through this House by the Exchequer Secretary—I welcome him back to his seat—included the introduction of the three-year national insurance holiday, worth £5,000 for employers. The scheme, which was originally announced at the Chancellor’s first Budget in June 2010, was not aimed at supporting just any employers, however, because it was restricted. It did not apply to businesses in London and the south-east or east of England, as we mentioned earlier, and it extended only to new business start-ups, and then only to the first 10 employees of those firms—but, of course, only to those first 10 employees who had been hired in the first year of that business. I hope hon. Members are still with me. [Interruption.] I am sure the Minister is still with me as he designed the dubious policy.
Indeed, serious concerns about the scheme’s complexity were raised at the time by Robert Chote—then at the Institute for Fiscal Studies; now at the Office for Budget Responsibility—who told the Treasury Committee that the policy
“might be a little too complicated to offer best value for money.”