I readily accept that and should have mentioned it; I think it is a success of this Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition. When the history of the coalition and this Parliament is written, it will acknowledge that two parties, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives—with slightly different outlooks and with a different set of policies—came together in the national interest to fix the disaster they inherited from the Labour party. For all the squabbles we occasionally read about in the press, which are blown out of all proportion, history will judge this to have been a period of extremely stable, successful, grown-up government between two parties that have made a real success of coalition. That is to the credit of everyone who has served in and supported this Government.
Another statistic that came out of the Budget is equally remarkable. On Treasury forecasts, we now expect the UK to emerge as the largest economy in Europe and to overtake the manufacturing powerhouse of Germany within 15 years. It is extraordinary that we not only have that ambition, but are on a trajectory to achieve it if we stick with our long-term economic plan. What underpins this is not any single item of fiscal policy, but the overall package that is helping to unlock, encourage and drive forward our single greatest asset—the new and emerging sense of aspiration, enterprise and creativity, a sense of can-do and ambition.
In businesses up and down the country, I have seen many young people prepared to take a risk and try something new, and people being prepared to start their own business. That is why, having come through this difficult economic period, we are seeing record numbers of business start-ups. It is this spirit of enterprise that will drive us forward in the 21st century—not some old-style, return-to-the-70s economic centralisation that is the “back to the future” dogma of the most left-wing Opposition we have seen for 30 years.
It is no surprise that the expert taken from the City by the former Prime Minister, Mr Brown to help with rescuing the banks, who was hailed as being a sign of how in-touch Labour was with the markets and was seen as the architect of the banks’ rescue has actually resigned the Labour Whip. Lord Myners no longer sits on the Labour Benches in the House of Lords; he moved to the Cross Benches because of the left-wing surge on the Labour Front Bench. It would be a travesty and a danger if Labour were to be put back in control of the nation’s finances and our future. We need to stick to our long-term economic plan.
Another example of us investing for the future while taking difficult decisions on spending is that of science. Despite the cuts made, the Government have been able to ring-fence and support science because they recognise it as a core driver of economic growth. That is an indication of our confidence about Britain’s future in the world and a recognition of the UK’s ability to transform its leading science base into new products, services and markets. There is a genuine case for public sector and private sector collaboration there as in so many other sectors.
This plan is not ideological; it is pragmatic and based on the economic realities of the 21st century. I saw that in the energy sector and the creation of the world’s first green investment bank. I saw it give rise to a surge in investment in the world’s largest offshore wind programme. Across the board, we are seeing unprecedented investment in new sectors, new enterprise and new businesses. It leaves me thinking that although I am not standing for Parliament at the next election, if we can re-elect a Conservative Government, this country will indeed have a bright and prosperous future ahead of it.