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The long-term economic plan is securing the UK’s recovery. We were the fastest growing G7 country in 2014 and 2013 and we are joint fastest this year. The deficit has more than halved and the national debt as a share of GDP is set to fall this year. However, the job is not yet done, and the Government will continue working through the plan to ensure Britain’s long-term economic security.
In the autumn statement last week, it was great to hear the Chancellor talk about rehabilitating our prisoners. Does the Minister agree that the sale of old Victorian prisons is a prime example of how economic and social reform can go hand in hand, bringing sales to the Exchequer, working positively with prisoners in these prisons, and creating new places for homes in our cities?
I know that my hon. Friend has campaigned consistently on these issues since 2010. The justice reforms are an exemplary element of the long-term economic plan, combining savings with social reform and delivering economic dividends from improved employability to sites for 3,000 new homes. It is because of the strength of the economy, thanks to the long-term plan, that we can invest £1 billion to build nine modern prisons and close the old ones.
Last night I launched the all-party group on adult education in recognition of the fact that at a time when we are all living longer, having many different jobs and even careers, and whole industries are being allowed to die, our long-term economic security depends on investing in adult education. The Chancellor was persuaded not to slash the further education budget. Will he now acknowledge that investing in further education is vital for the future?
The hon. Lady rightly identifies the importance of continuing in further education and the fact that in the modern economy more and more people will have multiple careers through their lives, which means that the availability of retraining is very important. That is why I welcome the protection of this budget and the availability of loans, for example, for part-time students.
The Government’s economic plan rightly prioritises infrastructure, and I welcome yesterday’s announcement of a new chairman for Transport for the North. Does my hon. Friend agree that continued investment in Yorkshire and the north is vital to rebalancing our national economy?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, that is at the heart of the enterprise zones in the north, the city deals and the whole concept of the northern powerhouse—making sure that the cities of the north add up to something that is more than the sum of their parts—and Transport for the North, which he mentioned, is a vital part of that.
We of course recognise the challenges that come with energy costs, but it is true that the green sector supports a number of jobs in this country. It is very important that we seek to lead on research and development, and the autumn statement was another important step towards that.