It was a pleasure to listen to the three maiden speeches given by my new colleagues this afternoon. I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Warrington South (Andy Carter) and for Leigh (James Grundy) will be assiduous in joining my efforts to get investment into the north-west region, while my hon. Friend Sally-Ann Hart was fluent in articulating many of the challenges faced by seaside communities such as my own.
Over the past few weeks, I have spoken to many of the hoteliers, landlords and shop owners who are the backbone of my local economy in Blackpool. Many of these traders are deeply concerned about the potential impacts that coronavirus may have on their business. The tourism industry in Blackpool relies on a successful season. With the season due to begin shortly, the current uncertainty and possible impact of coronavirus could not have come at a worse time.
The measures announced yesterday will go a long way towards addressing the fears and concerns of many of my local small businesses. The 100% business rate relief for guesthouses and businesses in the leisure sector will provide breathing space for those traders who rely on a successful summer period and who struggle to keep their businesses afloat if the tourism industry is badly affected. To say that the announcement was greeted by a collective sigh of relief in Blackpool is an understatement.
I welcome the introduction of the £5,000 rates discount for pubs and the additional £2.2 billion support package for local authorities to assist those businesses that currently pay little or no business rates. The £3,000 grant that that will provide to hundreds of businesses in Blackpool is most welcome. For some, it will be the difference between surviving for another few years and closing altogether. I urge the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to work with local authorities so that they are in a position to distribute the funding as soon as possible. It is an unprecedented package of support for small businesses, and I commend the Treasury for putting it before the House.
Many of my constituents rely on seasonal work and are understandably apprehensive about taking time off during the holiday season. The measures in the Budget on statutory sick pay, and to make it easier for those who are not entitled to claim sick pay to claim universal credit, will assist many of my constituents. The measures announced will support the most vulnerable, who cannot always afford to take time off work when sick, and also help to contain the spread of the virus by ensuring that people follow the official medical advice, in the knowledge that they will not be financially worse off by doing so.
Under successive Prime Ministers, the Government have made assisting the least financially well-off an absolute priority, and I am delighted that the Budget continues in that vein. An increase in the national insurance threshold to £9,500 will give 31 million people an average tax cut of £100 per year, while the above-inflation increase that takes the national living wage up to £8.71 will benefit thousands of my hard-working constituents. The freeze on fuel duty over the past decade has helped working families to save around £1,200 compared with Labour’s spending plans. For many, the family car is a necessity, not a luxury, and continuing to freeze the duty will help millions of hard-pressed families with the cost of living.
I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a fantastic Budget that delivers on many of our manifesto commitments. The British people are rightly concerned about the impact that coronavirus may have on their lives. Not only has the Chancellor reassured many people with his comprehensive package of support for those individuals and businesses who may be affected, but he has provided welcome support for hard-working families and has laid the foundation for future prosperity and economic growth. This is an optimistic Budget that looks ahead to the fantastic future we have outside European Union. I am pleased to support it.