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As it happened: Philip Hammond’s first – and final – spring Budget

8 March 2017

2:20 PM

8 March 2017

2:20 PM

Philip Hammond has finished his Budget announcement. The stand out points? £2bn in funding for social care – although only half will come in the next year; money for new schools; help for businesses – including pubs – that will be hit hardest by the business rates hike. There’s only one policy which will grab the headlines tomorrow, though: the broken manifesto pledge made by the Tories not to hike National Insurance contributions. Instead, Hammond announced that Britain’s five million self-employed workers will see the rates they pay jump by two per cent over the coming years. Follow all the coverage as it happened on our Spectator live blog:

1.35pm: Jeremy Corbyn takes to his feet to respond. The Labour leader says ‘this government is a government with the wrong priorities’. He accuses the Chancellor of presenting a Budget ‘of complacency’.

1.30pm: The Chancellor finishes his Budget announcement – at 55 minutes, it’s the shortest since 2014. Hammond ends his address by saying: ‘We are the government of the NHS’.

1.26pm: The promise not to raise National Insurance contributions comes up several times in the Tories’ 2015 manifesto, including here:

1.24pm: Now we’re on to social care. The system is ‘clearly under pressure’, says the Chancellor in a statement that will surprise no one. Hammond says that additional grant funding of £2bn will be allocated over the next three years amid widespread cheers from the Tory backbenchers. The Chancellor riled many of his fellow Tory MPs with his failure to talk much about social care in his Autumn Statement; it’s clear that he has learned his lesson. Although does the announcement go far enough? Only half the money will be available immediately. What is clear is that the Chancellor, he says, will not be ‘exhuming Labour’s heated death tax’.

1.18pm: Philip Hammond now turns to education. As we knew, there will be funding for a further 110 new free schools and the Chancellor also confirms the introduction of ‘T’ Levels – vocational qualifications – with the help of a £500m-a-year pot.

1.17pm: The latest OBR forecasts reveal that the deficit will now rise in 2017-18:

1.14pm: The Chancellor is managing plenty of jokes but his gags can’t hide what is likely to be trouble over the planned hike in National Insurance rates for some. In their 2015 manifesto, the Tories promised not to raise NI contributions – a promise that has been broken for the self-employed. This is what the Conservatives said to voters before the last General Election:

1.12pm: Philip Hammond and Theresa May haven’t always had the easiest of relationships. But the pair managed a joke at the despatch box during the Budget statement:

1.10pm: Philip Hammond says that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘so far down a black hole that even Stephen Hawking has disowned him’.

1.10pm: The deficit is down. But it’s not disappearing any time soon:

1.09pm: The Chancellor has ‘good news’ for children – soft drinks’ firms have reduced the amount of sugar in their drinks – meaning less money from the sugar tax for the Exchequer

1.08pm: The Chancellor confirms that the National Living Wage will increase by 30p-per-hour from £7.20 to £7.50

1.05pm: Philip Hammond confirms a new minimum excise duty on cigarettes based. But says there will be ‘no changes to previously planned upratings of duties on alcohol and tobacco’.

1.02pm: The Chancellor says that the self-employed will see a one per cent hike in NI contributions to 10 per cent, with a further one per cent increase in April 2019

1pm: How the OBR predicts Britain’s economy will fare over the coming years:

12.58pm: As expected, Philip Hammond targets the self-employed on National Insurance contributions. The Chancellor says: ‘The difference in National Insurance Contributions is no longer justified by the difference in benefits entitlement. Such dramatically different treatment of two people earning essentially the same undermines the fairness of the tax system’.

12.55pm: ‘I make no apologies’ for raising taxes, says Hammond

12.50pm: We cannot abolish business rates, says Hammond. But we will set out a shake-up of the way these rates rise in the future, promises the Chancellor. That will come as small comfort to those companies hit hardest by the changes in the mean time. But there are some crumbs of reassurance; the Chancellor promises a series of measures to try and keep business owners happy, including – as the Sun reported earlier – providing a £1,000 discount for 90 per cent of pubs.

12.48pm: Hammond is littering his speech with jibes at Labour. He says ‘We will not saddle our children with ever-increasing debts’ unlike the party opposite and also says that they don’t call the last Labour Government the last for nothing’:

12.34pm: The Chancellor says this change of forecast means it means the UK will meet its three per cent EU Stability and Growth Pact target this year. Hammond says: ‘I won’t hold my breath for my congratulatory letter from Jean-Claude Juncker!’

12.40pm: As expected, the Chancellor confirms that the OBR has upped its forecast to the UK economy next year from 1.4 per cent growth to two per cent. Hammond says that this will dip slightly in 2018-19 to 1.6 per cent, before returning to two per cent in 2021. Meanwhile, the OBR has also revised down its short term forecast of Public Sector Net Borrowing to be £16.4bn lower than forecast in the Autumn Statement.

12.38pm: The Chancellor marks International Women’s Day by saying ‘that there is now a higher proportion of women in work than ever before’.

12.35pm: Hammond takes to his feet by saying Britain’s economy ‘has continued to confound the commentators with robust growth’ – not least the Project Fear doom-mongering put out by the Treasury in the run-up to the referendum.

12.20pm: Theresa May confirms that the Chancellor will address social care funding in his Budget. The Prime Minister tells Jeremy Corbyn to ‘wait and see’ during their exchange at PMQs. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is tweeting that the cash could be as much as £2bn:


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