I thank Mr Wright for opening this debate and the hon. Members who have taken part in this afternoon’s excellent proceedings. I welcome the Committee’s decision to focus on the challenge of boosting productivity in the UK; it is one of the Government’s key economic priorities over this Parliament, as we of course recognise that this is the route to raising living standards for people in the UK. Since the financial crisis, we have focused on stabilising the economy, tackling the deficit and creating jobs. As hon. Members have said, the UK has seen strong growth since then: the economy has grown by more than 14% since 2010—that is the second fastest growth rate among major advanced economies, after the United States; employment has reached a record high, with 2.8 million more people in work now than in the first quarter of 2010; and unemployment is at its lowest level for 11 years.
However, if we raised our productivity by just one percentage point every year, within a decade we would add £240 billion to the size of our economy—that is £9,000 for every household in Britain. That is why the Government have taken action to improve productivity in the UK economy. As hon. Members have noted, we published “Fixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation”, a plan for productivity growth in the UK over a decade. It outlines how we can encourage further investment in science, education, skills and infrastructure, and how we can promote a dynamic economy through reforming planning laws, boosting competition and creating a northern powerhouse.
Today, I will seek to address some of the Committee’s concerns and report back to the House on some of the progress we have made in implementing the plan’s commitments. Before doing so, I would like to tackle the questions the hon. Gentleman put about the status of “BIS 2020” and the impact of the machinery of government changes he mentioned on the delivery of the plan. The principles behind the “BIS 2020” work are still important: creating a simpler, cheaper and better Department by 2020. Recent events reaffirm the importance of our becoming increasingly flexible and able to respond rapidly to the demands of new priorities. Given the machinery of government changes, we will be considering in the coming months how the reform plans of BEIS—of its two predecessor Departments—should be best aligned.