Last week in Parliament was focussed upon the economy in the UK and in Europe. One of the first acts of the Coalition Government was to introduce the independent Office for Budget Responsibility. This leading group of independent forecasters reviews the performance of the UK economy as well as the impact of government policy such as taxes and cuts in public expenditure. Gone are the days when the government of the day could 'cook the books' or manipulate data to suit their own argument. Members of the public can now freely obtain accurate and up to date economic information, showing the state of our economy.
You don't have to be a leading economist to understand the message that data spells out; we are now all being affected by the legacy of the years of this country living beyond its means. Tackling this legacy will be painful and it will take time. As with any household or business that spends more than it brings in year after year, eventually decisive and painful action has to be taken to sort out the debts that have accumulated.
My priority is to make sure that this pain is fairly distributed, with those most able to make the greater contributions to the national push to tackle our debt being required to do so while vulnerable people and those earning the lowest incomes being protected.
Part of the reforms needed to balance the nation’s income and expenditure needs to come from public sector employees’ pension schemes. At present, public service pension benefits continue to outpace both private scheme benefits and the contributions that are collected to fund them, with taxpayers’ money meeting the difference. Building on the reforms of the last government, John Hutton the Labour Minister for Pensions has developed an action plan for this government. These reforms, and their effect upon the differing pension schemes of separate groups of public sector workers, are now being negotiated. To tackle the lack of factual information a website has been set-up to enable people to see what is being proposed. This website can be accessed through www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/tax_pensions_index.htm
It is very important to me that reforms to public sector pension schemes acknowledge the valuable contribution public sector workers make to our society enable people to have the time to adjust their personal plans and protect those on low incomes. I encourage affected constituents to raise their individual concerns with me so I can continue to take them up with the Government.
Despite the bad news on the economy, it is important to remember the Government’s vision for the future. Everyday, I am working with Ministers to re-balance our economy away from London-centric financial services into growing and producing more food, generating more of our own energy and producing innovative goods and services to export to the growing economies of the world.
In Cornwall we have private and social enterprises that are growing in expanding parts of the economy such as renewable energy, science, technology and creative industries. Just last week I was delighted to join Vince Cable MP at Engineered Arts in Penryn, a pioneering robotics company that exports to NASA, S.Korea and China.