'Light at the end of the tunnel' but no end to austerity

British industrial production

In comments released in The Sun on Sunday (11 March) in advance of the full statement tomorrow - which in contrast to previous Spring Budgets will be a pared-down affair, as the government moves towards once-yearly Autumn Budgets from 2019 - Hammond announced that he will be launching a call for evidence from stakeholders on how fiscal measures can be used to tackle the issue of plastic waste.

Amid a clear political warning against "Labour's economic train wreck" (paired with his "light at the end of the tunnel" metaphor), the chancellor announced that growth for 2017 had been revised up by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to 1.7 per cent - up from 1.5 per cent at the Budget in November.

Those forecasts, based on the assumption that Britain would stay in the European Union, saw growth of above 2 percent for each year between 2018 and 2021.

And the Chancellor said borrowing was due to fall in every year of the forecast, with debt predicted at almost 1 per cent lower than in November.

Instead, he said the economy had grown in every year of the Conservative-led governments, with manufacturing enjoying its longest unbroken run of growth for 50 years, three million additional jobs and higher levels of employment in every part of the UK.

"Another step on the road to rebuilding the public finances decimated by the party opposite", Hammond said. The body left its forecasts unchanged for 2019 at 1.3%.

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Until 2016, major tax changes were announced early in the year, in the Spring Budget, while the Autumn speech was primarily for economic forecasts.

Hammond added the Treasury will today publish information about how the £1.5bn set aside for Brexit planning will be spent.

The chancellor said the latest estimates, which show public debt as a share of GDP falling for the next five years, showed the country was at a turning point, a decade on from the financial crisis. He claimed there was "light at the end of the tunnel" but refused to rule out further cuts. The consultation will remain open until 5 June 2018.

Mr Hammond said his deputy Elizabeth Truss would publish the departmental allocation of more than £1.5 billion of Brexit preparation funding for 2018-19.

'The stamp duty concessions have definitely prompted more interest among first-time buyers, who are often taking the place of investors at the lower end of the market.

Chancellor Philip Hammond set out his vision of an "outward-looking, free-trading nation, one that is confident that our best days lie ahead of us".

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