FRIDAY’S announcement that the UK economy grew by 1.5 per cent in the past six months, coming on top of falling unemployment figures, is welcome, writes Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy.
In Stafford constituency, the number receiving Job Seekers’ Allowance has fallen from 1732 to 1197 since April 2010.
It is now at its lowest level for five years though we need to see it fall further.
Surveys show that businesses are more confident and investing again. The West Midlands is seeing the fastest growth in exports in the UK.
Britain is on the right track. But we cannot be complacent.
It is only recently that the UK has seen relatively strong growth and this has yet to be reflected in rising incomes.
We need now to ensure that the country invests for the long-term.
The announcement that a 3.2 Gigawatt nuclear power station (by comparison, Rugeley produces around 1.0 Gigawatt) meeting some seven per cent of the UK’s electricity needs will be built at Hinkley Point is a step towards ensuring future energy security.
The fact that it will be built by a French company and financed in part from China shows both a strength and a weakness of our economy.
The strength is that we are considered one of the best homes for very large long-term investment.
Our resurgent car manufacturing sector shows the benefits to jobs and exports when overseas companies have the confidence to invest.
The weakness is that, in some industries in which we once led the way, we have seen UK investors take short-term profits rather than building for the long-term.
There are of course other industries locally, such as aerospace, tableware, power and construction equipment where long-term UK investment has been made and our nation is a world leader.
If the UK can both remain open to investment from outside and see its own businesses invest for the long term, we will indeed have an economy that is fit for the 21st century.