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Income inequality is declining. Any poverty is, of course, something that we want to address, but the best route out of poverty is through employment. If we were to ask individuals whether we should turn the clock back to 2010 when we had half a million more people unemployed, I do not think that they would choose to do so. The reality is that there is no true economic strength without fairness.
I must take issue again with the point made by Faisal Rashid. He suggested that by raising the personal allowance a year early to £12,500, that resulted in only “meagre” benefits—that was his expression. For the average family in my constituency, two wage earners each earning the average wage of about £28,000, that will mean a combined addition to the family budget of £260 a year. Does he want to stand up and seriously suggest that that is a meagre benefit? Does he? It is not a meagre benefit. It is more money in people’s pockets to focus on their priorities—on support for their children, support for their futures and support for their daily lives.
Strong families and strong communities require strong healthcare. It is important to note what managing the economy—taking a balanced approach—means for healthcare. It was the Leader of the Opposition who suggested during the last election that a 2.2% increase in health spending would make the NHS the “envy of the world”. Well, it is this Government who will be spending 3.4% above inflation every year. The figures are stark: the total budget will go from about £122 billion a year today to £149 billion a year in 2023—a real terms increase above inflation of £20.5 billion a year.