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More growth means more jobs, and over 1.5 million more jobs are forecast over the next five years, on top of the 1.7 million new jobs created in the past four years. Indeed, today we have more men and women in work than ever before. In Braintree, unemployment has dropped by a third since the general election, with general unemployment down from 3.4% to 2.3%, and youth unemployment from 6.3% to 4.1%. Last Friday we had a successful jobs fair in Braintree with more than 30 businesses and 450 local people attending. I thank Braintree Freeport and Amtek for sponsoring the event, and Braintree district council and Ignite—especially Liz Storey and her team—for their support.
Getting young people back into work is vital, as Councillor Stephen Canning, the youngest councillor in Braintree, keeps reminding me. As a founder of the Million Jobs campaign, I am delighted that the Chancellor has abolished national insurance contributions for employers hiring a young person under 21.
Apprenticeships, too, have been a great success, giving over 1 million people a first step on to the jobs ladder. In particular, I congratulate Braintree district council, especially Councillor Chris Siddall, cabinet member for prosperity and growth, on its apprenticeship programme, and Essex county council on supporting over 2,700 apprentices in the past five years.
The deficit is now down by one third and is due to fall to 5.5% next year. That is 50% of what we inherited in 2010. Yes, the Government’s long-term economic plan is indeed working.
This is a Budget for savers, with the raising of the annual limit on ISAs to £15,000, the abolition of the dreaded 10p rate on savings income helping over 1.5 million lower-income savers, and the new pensioner bonds offering up to 4% return on a three-year bond. This is a Budget for pensions and pensioners, with no one being forced to buy an annuity and no punitive 55% tax rate if people try to take more of their tax-free lump sum. This Budget puts pensions back in the control of pensioners, taking them away from the diktat of Government.
This is a Budget for business. At this point, I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The annual investment allowance, which increased tenfold from £25,000 to £250,000, is now doubled again to £500,000. With the business confidence index at an all-time high, I hope that this will encourage businesses, including farmers in my area, to invest more in plant and machinery and to hire more people.