Indeed, and as the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this morning, this has been the slowest recovery in living standards in history. I do not think any reasonable Government would expect to be re-elected with that kind of record, and those are the facts.
What was extraordinary about the debate was the way in which the Government, having twice moved the goalposts on their deficit target, again tried to pull this extraordinary trick over the eyes of the country today. As I said in an intervention, the “Charter for Budget Responsibility”, which this House endorsed in January, made no reference to balancing the current Budget by 2017-18. It talked about a rolling five-year forecast, yet it was used today by the Financial Secretary, who is no longer in his place, to refer to a bogus sum saying that £30 billion in cuts were implied by that charter. That type of approach shows that the view of the Conservative party and this Government is, “This is as good as it gets”, and that we should have no ambition for our country of higher growth, higher skills and higher investment than that which they have been able to provide. My constituents and Opposition Members reject that completely.
Let us look at what the International Monetary Fund is saying on growth. It says that next year growth will fall compared with this year and that it will still be falling the year after. Is that really as good as it gets for Britain in this early stage of the 21st century? The next Government should follow policies that see us have higher growth, higher wages and higher skills.
It was also revealing in this debate that the Minister could not say whether he supported the Office for Budget Responsibility evaluating the fiscal plans of any other party, and small wonder because the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the one organisation that has evaluated the plans and looked at the difference between the Conservative spending plans and those that would be followed Labour, has said that there will be more growth, more jobs, and faster rises in wages under Labour’s spending plans than under those of the Tories. So there it is: confirmation that if we want to have ambition for our country, a fairer society, better public spending and better living standards and outcomes for our constituents, seeing an end to this Government is absolutely critical.
We also need in this debate a recognition that the way the Government have tried to reduce the deficit in this Parliament has brought exceptional hardship to our constituents. Anyone who has held the hand of a disabled person, as I have, having to pay the wicked, pernicious bedroom tax, with tears in her eyes, wondering how any decent Government could ever inflict that on any of its citizens, knows that the course the country has been on for the past five years is wrong and needs to change. Anyone who has seen, as I have in my surgery, people on low incomes with family members suffering sanctions imposed through targets from the Department for Work and Pensions knows that we are a better country than that and the next Government can do better for all of its people and produce much more fairness.
It is key that we get more people into work, abolish long-term unemployment among our young people and those over the age of 25 and ensure that we have an economy with more productivity leading to rises in wages and higher living standards for all. We need an economy that is based more on exports and investment than on the racking up of public and private debt that this Government have presided over.
I believe that there is a better way, and that the people of this country will vote for it on
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
I do not believe that the British people will be fearful on