The Government’S Productivity Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark 3:31 pm, 28th February 2017

I apologise if I chose my words poorly, but the point that I was trying to make is that we need to exercise great caution, because two things have had an effect. The first is that high levels of immigration have meant that wages have been supressed, but as we leave the European Union we also need to ensure that people continue to do those jobs, whether they be in the care sector or, indeed, in the food production industry in my constituency. There is a challenge ahead for the Government not only to maintain employment levels, but to ensure that there is a better-paid workforce.

Secondly, as has already been said, a major contributor to our loss of, or stagnating, productivity in recent years has been the decline in the financial services sector since the financial crash of 2008. That has happened not just in London, but across the country, including Edinburgh in Scotland, Manchester and my own city of Nottingham, where the related company Experian is based. There are fewer jobs and less productivity. Nobody is a friend of investment bankers, but they are highly productive members of the economy and we need to be careful about how we accommodate the financial services sector post-Brexit. Personally, I am fairly optimistic about the future, given that those investment bankers and lawyers to whom I have spoken will not follow the entreaties of Mr Macron and move to France, with its sclerotic, socialist economy, any time soon.

We need to be careful, however, about how we proceed in tackling the productivity gap. I am particularly cautious about spending more money and getting the country into further debt. The national debt, of course, is £1.8 trillion and it is increasing at a rate of £5,000 per second. Levels of austerity have been grossly overstated: public spending has fallen by only 5% or 6% in real terms since 2010. Although it has fallen as a percentage of GDP, it remains a major problem, and I am particularly concerned that fewer and fewer right hon. and hon. Members even mention the debt and the deficit as part of our national dialogue. That needs to change, because the greatest threat to our economy and productivity is the debt we are leaving to future generations.