Chancellor Philip Hammond has just delivered his 'last Spring budget', mainly because his next budget will be in Autumn this year and next year he will have a Spring statement instead. He rose at 12:37 and with an easy jokey manner told us about everything he had already told us about on numerous TV programmes. He was helped by a slew of good news: unemployment is down, employment is up, and growth is predicted to rise to 2% this year (albeit falling somewhat in future years until it finally rises to 2% again in 2020.)
Hammond: "Sorry, this is the spreadsheet bit."
However, he did have to admit that inflation will be above target at 2.4%.
His one big bite into the taxpayer was increasing national insurance on self-employed people and removing tax loopholes. The rest was giveaways: cash for the regions, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. After handing £200m to the Scots Hammond tried to drum up a cheer from the SNP but they were stony faced.
He introduced ‘T levels’ as a technical equivalent to ‘A levels’ but we already knew about them. There will be 15 T levels which will simplify the current hundreds of vocational qualifications.
You have heard of apprenticeships and internships, well now there is a new buzzword: returnship. The government wishes to support these. They are people returning to work after absence for pregnancy or other career break. The government is keen on returnship and money was thrown at them.
The chancellor doubled free childcare to 30 hours per week.
The tax rate thresholds will be:
Next year By 2020
Basic rate (20%) £11,500 £12,500
Higher rate (40%) £45,000 £50,000
Philip Hammond sat down after 54 minutes.
Jeremy Corbyn rose to reply for the opposition and spoke for almost as long. He delivered a pre-scripted rant covering the 2000 people who sleep rough last night, the 3000 who got their meal from a foodbank yesterday, the 5 million children in poverty and the public sector workers who have not had a pay rise for 7 years. He did not actually address anything the chancellor said and asked rhetorical questions that were so long and confused that he forgot to answer them.
Corbyn: "...and one boy didn't get his pocket money!"
Unfortunately, he lost the interest of the Labour woman beside and behind him who preferred to go online and check their likes.
How many tweeters can you count in this picture?
And why are they all women?
The use of electronic devices in the Commons is running out of control. Probably this should be banned.
All in all, a budget of no consequence with all the real excitement postponed to this year’s next budget in the Autumn.