Philip Hammond is a very different kind of Chancellor than George Osborne. Osborne’s conference speeches ranged across the policy landscape; Hammond’s was tightly focused on his brief. You wouldn’t have known from it that Hammond had been Foreign Secretary until a few months ago.
On the economy, Hammond confirmed that the government was no longer targeting a surplus by 2020. Hammond, sounding less downbeat about Brexit than he had on the radio this morning, was clear that there will be a fiscal stimulus announced in the autumn statement. Hammond also talked about how to raise productivity, his favourite subject.
One striking feature of Hammond’s speech was how he repeatedly emphasised the importance of high-skilled immigration to the economy. At one point he warned that government policy could easily snuff out Britain’s advantage in tech and other new sectors of the economy. ‘So, we must carefully maintain the conditions that have brought this activity to Britain in the first place. Including the ability to attract the brightest and best to work here in our high-tech industries,’ he added. This is the Treasury slightly pushing back against the Home Office worldview that Theresa May has brought with her to Number 10.