THE BLOG

No Hope For Young People From Hapless Hammond

06/10/2017 17:04 BST | Updated 06/10/2017 17:04 BST
Phil Noble / Reuters
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond speaks at the Conservative Party's conference in Manchester, Britain October 2, 2017. REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

Far from closing the gap in living standards between older and younger generations, the Conservatives have widened it. Listening to the Chancellor's speech at Tory Party conference, a speech drawing more yawns than applause, I was surprised like many to hear his commitment that under the Tories the next generation will be better off than their parents. Such a statement would be welcomed if it did not fall on the side of delusion from a Chancellor who has added £145 billion to the public debt in his first year in office. 

The reality is that young people in this country have felt the brunt of seven years of Tory austerity. Rising house prices, slow economic growth, and a lack of stable employment have entrenched huge economic inequality between the younger and older generations. 

Under the Conservatives, the levels of debt young people find themselves in has risen dramatically.  The decision to triple tuition fees and end grants for students attending university now means that young people are leaving university with on average £40,000 worth of debt. 

Insecure and low wage work for the younger generation has become commonplace, with six million people in jobs that pay less than the Living Wage and nearly a million people on zero-hour contracts. 

The dream of home ownership is increasingly a forlorn one for young people as they forced typically to spend a third of their income on rent. Home ownership in Britain has fallen to its lowest level since 1985 and has declined across all regions and all income groups. This is hardly surprising given that a young person residing in London needs to pay on average almost 13 times their earnings to buy a house and someone living in the North East over five times their income. 

The predicament young people find themselves in under the Tories has been exacerbated by the Government's botched, clueless approach to Brexit. It's creating huge economic uncertainty, as well as driving down investment and business confidence in the UK. This is having a knock-on effect on wages, jobs and educational opportunities available to next generation. It's little wonder that a recent report by the Resolution Foundation found that half of the British public no longer think young people will have a better life than their parents' generation. 

Over the last seven years we have had the failed economic policies of a Tory Government who has been happy to pit the young against the old. Throughout the General Election we were told that there was no magic money tree to abolish tuition fees or to build more homes for young people. Yet the Chancellor was able to find £1 billion to pay for a dodgy deal with the DUP to keep Theresa May in office. He was able to find the money for his post- Budget u-turn on raising national insurance on the self-employed. He was able to find money for the recent u-turns on Making Tax Digital and the Dementia Tax.  

There need not be a trade-off between the young and the old, with one generation gaining at the expense of the other. After the Chancellor's speech it's clear that only the next Labour Government will deliver economic policies that will address the growing inequality between the generations. It's only Labour who will give young people the hope and confidence in their future that they so desperately need, at the same time as protecting the living standards of older generations. After all, prosperity for both younger and older people is not mutually exclusive. That's the message Labour is sending out.

Peter Dowd is the Labour MP for Bootle and Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury