I am grateful to follow Mr Robinson. I think it was the late Harold Macmillan who talked about economists telling people this and that, and about statistics. However, there are some realities in this Budget, which other Members have referred to, and I will also do so in terms of the impact on my constituency.
Let me begin with the general point about the £10,000 income tax threshold for next year. That is reality; that is not statistical. It means that next year, 4,000 individuals in my constituency will not be paying tax. More important for hon. Members to understand is the fact that the average total family income across Lancashire is approximately £26,600, and next year those people will pay no tax on their first £10,000 of income. To me, that is a huge selling point in increasing confidence. People will be able to go out to work and the Government will promise that we will not touch the first £10,000. It seems remarkable that we are in such a state that we can say that that is marvellous, but compared with what has gone on before it is extremely good news for constituents across Lancaster and Fleetwood.
Fuel duty has been frozen. In a huge rural area such as my constituency, where people have no choice, whatever their income, but to be dependent on their car to travel to work and to the shops, the ending of Labour’s plans to increase fuel duty provides massive support for the local economy.
There is the new employment allowance. Most businesses in my area are small, made up of two or three—if not six—people. The national insurance promises in the Budget will be a massive fillip to new employment and to encouraging people to get out there, set up their own business and start moving with the support of this Government.
Hon. Members will bear with me while I discuss a local theme that they would expect me to mention: shale gas. Many hon. Members have looked at shale gas as the great nirvana and something that will fill the energy gap, but that will affect Lancashire. Let me underline yet again that we in Lancashire are still not satisfied that the regulatory regime is right. We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to an office for unconventional gas and the tightening up of those regulations, but people in Lancashire need to see that the regulations are thorough and tight. Given that farmers still take water directly from the water table through boreholes, Members will be able to imagine the worries in parts of my constituency.
More important than that is the question of who will earn money from shale gas. Lancashire people are quite generous, like me, in their commitment—[Interruption.] Well, we are far more generous than the people from the other side of the Pennines. We are generous in our commitment to the United Kingdom and in our willingness to support it, but as the law stands, the people who own the land, including the farmers on whose land this fracking might—I still say might—take place will earn precious little from it.