Lord Young apology over 'never had it so good' remarks

image captionLord Young of Graffham had echoed the words of former Tory Prime Minister Harold Macmillan

The prime minister's enterprise adviser has apologised after saying most Britons had "never had it so good" despite the "so-called recession".

Lord Young of Graffham told the Daily Telegraph the Bank of England's decision to cut the base rates to 0.5% meant many homeowners were better off.

But he later stated that he had written to David Cameron apologising for his "insensitive and inaccurate" remarks.

Downing Street called them offensive and said Mr Cameron was "unimpressed".

The prime minister's spokesman said he "believes, at this difficult time, politicians need to be careful with their choice of words - these words are as offensive as they are inaccurate".

In the Daily Telegraph interview, Lord Young said: "For the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good ever since this recession - this so-called recession - started..."

Lord Young, a former trade and industry secretary during Margaret Thatcher's government, added that "most people" with a mortgage found their monthly repayments had decreased by up to £600 each time.

He suggested the government's cuts, outlined in last month's Spending Review and totalling more than £80bn over four years, would just take state spending levels back to what they were in 2007 - a time, he said, when people were "not short of money".

He said: "Now, I don't remember in 07 being short of money or the government being short of money.

"So, you know, I have a feeling and a hope that when this goes through, people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

"Of course, there will be people who complain, but these are people who think they have a right for the state to support them."

He said that the forecast of 100,000 public sector job losses a year was "within the margin of error" in the context of the 30 million-strong job sector.

'Protected pound'

He also suggested that the coalition government had overemphasised the impact of the cuts to "protect" the value of the pound.

"The fact that we seemed to be going through such big cuts really meant that the pound was saved, so far," he said.

Lord Young, 78, was given his unpaid role - which Downing Street says he will remain in - by Mr Cameron at the beginning of November.

A one-time lawyer, he has worked as a businessman in a variety of industries, including retail, manufacturing and digital technology.

He became Baron Young of Graffham in 1984, a month before he joined Mrs Thatcher's Cabinet as minister without portfolio, where he was tasked with advising the government about unemployment issues.

image captionLord Young was hired by David Cameron to carry out an unpaid role

The father-of-two left politics five years later before returning, at Mr Cameron's behest earlier this year, when he was appointed to review and report on health and safety legislation.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said that Lord Young appeared to be comparing the current age of austerity with a far more benevolent economic climate under the Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in the 1950s.

The peer's comments echoed those made by Mr Macmillan in 1957 when he famously said: "Most of our people have never had it so good".

Mr Macmillan had painted a rosy picture of Britain's economy during the speech to fellow Conservatives, while calling for wage restraint and making warnings that inflation was the country's most important problem of the post-war era.

But Lord Young, whose remarks differed to the restrained public statements made by senior government ministers, and Mr Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg, later apologised.

In a statement published on Thursday evening, Lord Young said he had played no part in the spending review and was not a member of the government.

He said: "I deeply regret the comments I made and I entirely understand the offence they will cause.

"They were both inaccurate and insensitive.

"Low mortgage interest rates may have eased the burden for some families in this country. But millions of families face a very difficult and anxious future as we come to grips with the deficit. I should have chosen my words much more carefully."

Last month, the prime minister had told the Conservative conference that "reducing spending will be difficult", while Mr Clegg has also maintained that the cuts were to be "difficult and painful."

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle said the original claims made by Lord Young were "insulting".

"People worried about their jobs will be disgusted by Lord Young's insulting claim that 'they've never had it so good'.

"No wonder the government has no plan for jobs and growth - the man that David Cameron personally appointed as his adviser on helping small businesses thinks that the loss of 100,000 jobs a year is no big deal," she said.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimates that 1.3m workers were made redundant during the recession.

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