The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of George Osborne George Osborne Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Secretary of State 1:23 pm, 26th May 2016

As a result of the triple lock on pensions, we have made huge strides in eliminating pensioner poverty in this country and seen the biggest real increases in the basic state pension for generations. I am proud that that has happened under a Conservative Government.

One of our biggest reforms, which also features in the Queen’s Speech, is the radical devolution of power across our United Kingdom. We have already devolved substantial new tax and spending powers to Scotland; there is a major piece of proposed legislation for Wales; we are creating powerful new elected mayors, which are proving an attractive opportunity for shadow Cabinet members who think that their careers are not going anywhere in this place; and we have radical reforms to business rates, which people have talked about for many decades. When we came into office in 2010—when the Prime Minister first became Prime Minister—80% of council revenues were handed down in central Government grants, almost all of which were ring-fenced. Now, by 2020, 100% of local government revenues will stay with local communities. That is giving power to the people in a devolution revolution.

With record employment and one of the fast-growing economies in the advanced world, it would be easy to think, “Job done”, and to take our foot off the accelerator. By doing so, we could avoid controversy, duck confrontation and settle for a quiet life, but if we did that we would be failing the British people and would watch as their living standards and opportunities slowly declined. I did not come into politics to see that happen. I do not want to turn around to my children, as we watch other nations power ahead, make the new scientific advances, build the new high-speed railways and embrace the latest technologies, and say, “That used to be us. That used to be Great Britain.” I want this country and the people living in it to be the great success story of the 21st century. To make that happen, there will be controversy and battles ahead—making change and confronting vested interests are always difficult—but this Queen’s Speech demonstrates that we are ready and that when it comes to standing up for the hard-working people of Britain, we are up for the fight.