I was not going to speak in today’s debate, but I thought I should because I am getting frustrated by some of the rewriting of history and the pretence that somehow there was a world of milk and honey under the last Labour Government. I will make a few brief points and tell a few brief stories.
In 2005, I was taking a break from work. I had three small children and I chaired the community pre-school, which was a lifeline for many working families in my local community. One day, one of the best members of staff came to see me in tears. Her partner had left her and she had to give up her job, which she loved, because she could not afford to work anymore—she was better off on benefits. The Labour Government did not give people opportunities, but trapped them on benefits. I also remember, during the 2005 general election campaign, mums coming to see me, again in tears, because they had been massively overpaid working tax credits by an incompetent Government that could not manage a benefits system. They were asked for that money back, which drove them into debt and desperation.
I remember the last Labour Government’s legacy. We were left with a crash. When an economy crashes, it is young people who suffer. A million 18 to 25-year-olds were not in employment, education or training. That was the Labour legacy for young people: a million of them left on the dust heap without opportunity.
Look at the position now. Unemployment among young people has halved. More women are in work than ever before. Real wages are rising and there is more money in people’s pockets because we have taken more people out of paying tax and given more people the ability to drive their cars and get to work without extra petrol taxes. People have £6,000 more in their pockets, and Labour voted against that.
Yes, there is more to do. I want to do more about the gender pay gap, but thank goodness—and thanks to my right hon. Friend Justine Greening—we have gender pay reporting so we know how big the gap is.
I would like to do more for women in their 50s and 60s. Secretary of State, just a personal story: on my way into work this morning I had, for the first time, the experience of a hot flush. Men—thank goodness you do not menopause. We need to do more for women in their 50s and 60s, because the skills we need today are not going to be the skills we need tomorrow. We are living in a digital revolution. We are living in the fourth industrial revolution. The lives our children will be facing will be very different from the ones we have experienced. The jobs that people are doing right now will not be the same jobs that they will be doing in five and 10 years’ time. So let us not hark back to a history that did not actually exist, but look forward to the future.