The Liberal Democrats are working to build a stronger economy here in Wiltshire and across the UK, and last week’s new jobs figures brought more good news on that front.
Nationally, 930,000 extra jobs have been created in the last year – four in five of them full-time. There are now 1.8 million more people in work than at the last general election, and the employment rate is the highest on record.
I’m pleased to see this recovery is benefiting local people.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in the Chippenham constituency fell by nearly 100 last month, bringing it down to its lowest level since September 2008.
I am particularly keen that we help young people find work, to give them the chance to get on in life.
The Liberal Democrats are giving smaller employers a £1,500 grant if they take on an apprentice, something I’m encouraging the local businesses I visit to do. We have also scrapped employers’ National Insurance contributions for all under-21s who are not higher rate taxpayers. I was glad to see the number of young Jobseekers locally fall by 40 last month, to its lowest since July 2008.
Last Monday, the Government introduced its emergency Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Commons. By Thursday evening it had already received Royal Assent and become law.
I understand that the Government needed to take action to place on a sound legal basis the powers our security services rely on to use communications data to thwart terrorists, fight crime and keep us safe.
Thankfully, Liberal Democrats have secured a number of measures in the Bill to protect civil liberties, including a ‘sunset’ clause that requires these powers to come before Parliament again by the end of 2016, a new independent oversight board to make sure Government policies have sufficient regard for our liberties and privacy, and a review of the law governing investigatory powers.
However, the devil is always in the detail, and I do not believe that one afternoon was enough time for MPs to properly consider the detail of these important laws. I made this point to ministers in a speech to the House of Commons, arguing that more Parliamentary time should have been given to the Bill, and voted against the Government’s motion which rushed the Bill through Parliament.