Brown puts the Budget back a month to April

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Gordon Brown has delayed this year's Budget by a month after taking time off work following the death of his baby daughter.

As the Chancellor returned to work yesterday after three weeks off to mourn the loss of 10-day-old Jennifer Jane, the Treasury announced that he would present his Budget on 17 April.

Fixing the Budget date had been the first decision taken by Mr Brown on his return to work. Downing Street said that Tony Blair had been informed during his regular contacts with the Chancellor.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Chancellor's first decision on returning to the office was to set the date of the Budget. For reasons we are sure everybody will understand, and additionally because of the early Easter on March 31, the Budget will be given this year on April 17."

The House of Commons is due to rise for its Easter recess on 26 March and to return on 9 April. Since 1950, there have been a total of 21 Budgets in April.

The delay will fuel speculation that Mr Brown wants time to draw up a package of increases in taxation to enable the Government to boost spending on the NHS.