Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

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Challenging Nick Clegg on the Economy Deputy Prime Ministers Questions


Today I challenged Nick Clegg on the fact that whilst the Government has been saying they have fixed the economy, everyday working families are now on average £1,600 a year worse off than in 2010, and in this time millionaires have had a tax cut. 

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): The Deputy Prime Minister and his Tory best friends claim that they have turned the economy around, but the facts are that under this Government more and more people are on zero-hours contracts, the income of people who are self-employed has fallen by 14%, and low-paid and insecure work is leaving more people reliant on benefits to top up their pay and to help to pay their bills. While millionaires enjoy a Tory-Lib Dem tax cut, everyday working families are on average £1,600 a year worse off and struggling to make ends meet. Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell us whose recovery this is?

The Deputy Prime Minister: Almost every time we meet across the Dispatch Box, the right hon. and learned Lady repeats the extraordinary suggestion that we have somehow been responsible for tax cuts for people in the higher tax bracket, when for 95% of the time that her party was in power the top rate was 40p. It is now 45p, which is 5p higher than it was under Labour. As I said earlier, the gap between rich and poor was higher under her party’s stewardship of the economy than it was in the 1980s, manufacturing declined four times more than it did under Margaret Thatcher, and we have taken more than 3 million people on low pay out of paying any income tax at all. That is the contrast between our records of which I am very proud.

Ms Harman: The fact is that the Government have cut taxes for millionaires while they have cut tax credits for everyday working people. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman’s Government are borrowing £190 billion more than they planned. They said they would balance the books by 2015, but the deficit is likely to be £75 billion by then. Stagnant wages and too many low-paid jobs have led to a shortfall in tax receipts, meaning more Government borrowing. With thousands more people reliant on in-work benefits, it emerged last week that the Government have spent £25 billion more than they planned on social security. [Interruption.] At least the facts I am putting to the Deputy Prime Minister are accurate, unlike the facts he misrepresented. His Government have left hard-working families not knowing how they will make ends meet. Why will he not admit it? He says they have rescued the British economy, but this recovery is only for a privileged few.

The Deputy Prime Minister: Say that to the fact that there are now more women in work than ever before. Say that to the fact that youth unemployment is lower than it was when we inherited the economy from the right hon. and learned Lady. Say that to the fact that we are now days away from being able to confirm that 2 million new apprenticeships are being formed under this Government—twice as many as under the Labour Government. We have cut tax for people on the minimum wage by two thirds. During Labour’s time in office there was the ludicrous and unacceptable situation where stockbrokers paid less tax on their dividends than their cleaners did on their wages. We have changed that. We have fixed the economy. They messed it up in the first place.


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