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What a pleasure it is follow Faisal Rashid, but I profoundly disagree with what he has just said. In his last point, he referred to eight years of economic failure, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is worth pausing for a moment to consider some key figures. In 2010, this country was spending a total of £700 billion or so a year and bringing in just £548 billion of tax revenue. In other words, a full £152 billion was borrowed. Fast forward eight years, and this country will spend £842 billion in the next financial year. Why? Because the economy has grown by 17% in that time. Crucially, of that £842 billion, a full £810 billion will be raised in tax revenues. In other words, that £152 billion deficit has shrunk, and shrunk dramatically. The reality is that a country that in 2010 was staring into the abyss can now look forward to a future and say, “Our best days are ahead.” Had this country not got on top of its finances over the past eight years, it would have been not the rich who would have suffered but the poor, the needy, the vulnerable and the hungry. If we look at countries such as Greece and Venezuela that have lost control of their finances, we see that it is the poorest in society who suffer most.
It is important to note a point that increasingly seems to be lost but should not be, and that is how far we have come in respect of employment. The country risks taking it for granted. We have 3 million more jobs than in 2010. In 2010, unemployment had gone up by half a million; that is half a million people whose futures were curtailed, whose opportunities were reduced and whose dreams were eroded. Unemployment means misery, lack of self-esteem and wasted potential. It means hollowed-out communities and a corrosive sense of despair. We should reflect on the successes that have happened since 2010.
Unemployment in our country today stands at just 4%. In Cheltenham, it is under 2%, compared with the rate in France, which is 9%. It is 8% in the Eurozone. In Italy, youth unemployment stands at 32%. When I speak to young people in my constituency—last week over the recess, I was speaking to young people at St Mark’s Junior School—I am able to say that, as they grow up and reach the age of 18, I want them to be in a position where they can choose whether to go to university, which is fine, or whether to have an apprenticeship, which is also fine, but, if they want to go into the world of work, driving true social mobility, there also are opportunities for them to do so.