I agree, and there will also be a direct impact on jobs in oil exploration and in the booming oil supply business in Tyneside and Teesside. The short-term measure to try to get the Government out of a political fix on petrol prices will cause deep and long-term damage to jobs in the north-east and in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
The first-time buyer scheme, which the Red Book states will cost £250 million for just one year, will not help the north-east in any great way, because it will clearly be concentrated where a large number of houses are being built—the south-east and other areas. Because the Government have removed housing targets and affected social landlords’ ability to build new houses through the ham-fisted way in which they have structured the financing of social house building, I doubt whether there will be much effect on the north-east.
I also note that none of the £200 million additional investment in regional railways will go further than Leeds. Investment schemes for railways in the north-east—I have been calling for extra capacity for people to commute into Tyneside from Chester-le-Street and other places—will clearly not be forthcoming.
Finally, I wish to mention armed forces pay. The Chancellor said that there would be a £250 uplift for those in the armed forces earning less than £21,000. I remind the House that that is from the same Government who have frozen armed forces pay for the next two years. In addition, they have changed the calculation from RPI to CPI, which will cost many thousands of servicemen and women huge sums of money over the coming years. The Government should not be proud of that. I get rather annoyed because if the previous Government had done that, when I was a Defence Minister, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would have howled us down and called us a disgrace.
Is this a Budget for growth? No, it is not. Will it help the north-east of England? No, it will not. Under the confused regional policy that is proposed, which is supported by Sir Alan Beith and his Liberal Democrat colleagues in the north-east, we will find that as the country’s economy declines and contracts, regions such as ours will go from the very bad position that they are in now to an even worse one.