In Ashington last week, I was asked by a resident what opportunities the Government had created for young people. I was pleased to be able to give a very positive reply.
For a start, apprenticeships have been boosted to record levels. There are now 340 workplaces employing 450 apprentices in my constituency - a 50 per cent increase since the election.
I’m a huge supporter of apprenticeships and saw their value when I visited Rolls-Royce’s impressive factory at Goodwood last year. The company’s Apprenticeship Programme provides people aged 16-24 with a superb opportunity to train with one of the world’s leading manufacturers.
It’s a sign of economic success that Britain’s car industry is thriving. In fact, we’ve never made more cars in this country. The West Midlands alone produces more than the whole of Italy.
Most of these companies are foreign owned - a topical issue in the light of Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca. But ask Rolls-Royce’s young apprentices at Goodwood if they mind that their employer is owned by BMW.
Rolls-Royce has created 200 new jobs at their factory in the last year. Across the country, manufacturing output growth has accelerated to a level among the highest signalled over the past two decades.
The OECD has joined the IMF in forecasting that the UK will have the fastest growing economy in the developed world this year, and this is being reflected in job creation. Unemployment in my constituency has continued to fall and now stands at just 1 per cent - one of the lowest rates in the country.
The national picture is good, too. Unemployment has fallen below 7 per cent for the first time since the recession. Compare that to over 25 per cent in Italy and Greece.
Economic growth enables increasing public investment, as I was reminded on Friday, when I opened the new accessible lifts at Hassocks railway station, completing a £3 million package of improvements there.
Later that day I visited the Royal Sussex County hospital in Brighton, which last week received the fantastic news of a huge £420 million investment which will transform its buildings.
Announcing the funding, the Chancellor said that the investment was “... only possible because our long term economic plan has restored control of our public finances.” That is a message which we should all remember.
If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.