19 Nov 2010

Lord Young quits over recession remarks

David Cameron’s enterprise adviser Lord Young resigns after being given an “almighty roasting” by the Prime Minister over his remarks about the recession, writes Political Correspondent Cathy Newman.

Conservative peer Lord Young came under fire for claiming most people have “never had it so good” and said a cut in mortgage rates “since this so-called recession” had left most people better off.

He had apologised after telling the Daily Telegraph, that the 100,000 job cuts expected each year in the public sector were “within the margin of error” in the context of a 30 million-strong workforce.

The former Trade and Industry secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government added that complaints about spending cuts came from “people who think they have a right for the state to support them”.

Peer quits

Political Correspondent Cathy Newman said that although Downing Street had earlier insisted he would stay, he has now been asked to leave.

“It’s thought he will quit before completing the report he is currently writing on small business,” Cathy Newman said.

“A senior government source said the Prime Minister had given him an ‘almighty roasting’.”

Following a media storm, Lord Young offered his resignation to David Cameron, while acknowledging his comments were “inaccurate and insensitive”.

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said the Prime Minister was “very unimpressed” by Lord Young.

“The Prime Minister believes at this difficult time politicians need to be careful with their choice of words – these words are as offensive as they are inaccurate,” he said.

His resignation follows a week of recognition after Lord Young won the ‘Peer of the Year’ gong at The Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year Awards on Wednesday.

FactCheck: Lord Young's claims: have we really never had it so good?

The peer issued an apology last night and Mr Cameron said on a visit to flood-damaged areas in Cornwall today: “Obviously he’s extremely embarrassed. He’s withdrawn what he said, he’s apologised for what he said, and that’s absolutely right.

“I mean, he’s not a member of the Government, he doesn’t speak for the Government and I think he’ll be doing a bit less speaking in the future.

“He should get on with what he has been doing and he was obviously extremely embarrassed and he was very quick to retract completely what he said.”

But even though some commentators backed aspects of Lord Young’s comments, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister confirmed early this afternoon that he had quit – several minutes after Cathy Newman had broken the story on Twitter.

The spokeswoman stressed that Lord Young had done some “very, very good work” in his spell at Downing Street.

Who Knows Who - Lord Young: one solution too many

‘Inaccurate and insensitive’

The comments were met with embarrassment at Number Ten after the government announced deep spending cuts to cut Britain’s record budget deficit.

Lord Young held a series of senior Cabinet posts under Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s, including Trade and Industry Secretary and has been brought back by David Cameron as an enterprise adviser, working in the office next to the Prime Minister’s in Number Ten.

I deeply regret the comments I made and I entirely understand the offence they will cause. Lord Young

He said during a recorded interview over lunch with a Daily Telegraph reporter: “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, because anybody, most people with a mortgage who were paying a lot of money each month suddenly started paying very little each month.”

In a statement issued after details of his comments emerged, Lord Young said: “I am not a member of the Government and played no part in the spending review.

“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.

“I have tonight written to the Prime Minister to apologise profoundly for what I said.”