Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 25th March 2013.

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Photo of Eric Ollerenshaw Eric Ollerenshaw Conservative, Lancaster and Fleetwood 6:12 pm, 25th March 2013

The hon. Gentleman anticipates me and for once—in fact, not for the first time—we agree. If Lancashire is to be used to fill the energy gap and if Lancashire will see fracking across the county, we need to understand that it is not Texas and landowners in Lancashire do not own the mineral rights. The Chancellor will gain through the tax system, companies will gain through their profits and, presumably, the Duchy of Lancaster or the Crown Estate will gain through the tax on mineral rights, but the local councils will gain precious little. I was pleased that the Chancellor said in his Budget that there would be specific proposals to allow local communities to benefit, but I tell the Ministers on the Front Bench that Lancashire expects more than one or two parish hall roofs to be fixed. We want to see something that will return money to Lancashire when the gas has been fracked, if that fracking is to go ahead. I need to make that clear.

Finally, on infrastructure, hon. Members talked about growth. For me, the key point was the Chancellor’s phrase about “clearing the economic arteries”. In the north-west, that means something substantial and we have had that from this Government. We have had the biggest investment in rail for the last 30, 40 or 50 years. It was all right Opposition Members saying that that would happen in future—it is happening now. I point to my own station in Lancaster, where £8.5 million is already being spent to vary the signalling so that trains can turn around in Lancaster and more platforms can be used. That is the small-scale work. Only last week, the Department for Transport finally agreed the M6 link road, which will be a bypass for Lancaster to the port of Heysham. It will bring thousands of jobs through a scheme for which the first plans were produced in 1948—that is perhaps a lesson to us all. It has taken this coalition Government to agree the money to get things moving and get the growth.

As the Secretary of State mentioned, there is still a great deal more for local councils to do. I am pleased that the Conservative councils in my area, Wyre borough council and Lancashire county council, have kept the council tax frozen. Not only that, but Lancashire has cut it by 2%—