The UK Economy

Each month the Office for National Statistics publishes data on the UK labour market.

The latest UK unemployment figures, at 4.4 per cent, are at their lowest since 1975. By comparison, unemployment in France is 9.5 per cent and as high as 17.2 per cent in Spain. The UK figure equates to 1.48 million people who are not in work but are seeking and available for it.

On the other hand there are 32.07 million people in work in the UK; there have never been so many British people in work.

When I entered Parliament in 1997, the claimant rate in North Shropshire was 3.6 per cent and unemployment was around 4.5 per cent. The claimant count is now a low 1.1 per cent and unemployment is 2.9 per cent.

I get emails, letters and tweets decrying zero-hours and temporary contracts but the evidence clearly shows that these types of contracts are a minority. Although there is no single agreed definition, the Labour Force Survey suggests that the number of people employed on zero-hours contracts in their main job, during October to December 2016, was 905,000; this amounts to less than three per cent of all people in employment.

People on zero-hours contracts are more likely to be young, part-time or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment. A flexible system allows employers and employees to choose their hours according to need. Before

One of my staff began working for me in Westminster, he was delighted to be hired in his home town on a temporary contract. The job paid a good wage, enabled him to work abroad and taught him new skills in the workplace.

Constituents have also been writing to me about the level of inflation. It is essential that a healthy economy enjoys low and steady inflation. The Government’s target of two per cent plus or minus one percent is a well-established target for central banks around the world.

Inflation had been over 20 per cent in the mid-1970s, before Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979. Conservative Governments managed to bring that down to 5.5 per cent by the time she resigned in 1989 and it had reached as low 1.6 per cent when I became an MP in 1997. The rate has held steady last month at 2.6 per cent, well within the Government's inflation target.

A report by Economists for Free Trade to be released this autumn predicts that Britain’s economy after Brexit could enjoy a boost worth £135 billion a year. Signing up to new trade deals and embracing free trade will benefit British exporters and our consumers. Economic success does not come ready made but we must allow for the right conditions to allow British firms to flourish.