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Budget 2024 - live: Hunt and Starmer ‘in conspiracy of silence’ as Britain faces hardest five years since WWII

‘We could be in for a rude awakening’ after election, says head of top economic think tank

Kate Devlin,Archie Mitchell,Matt Mathers
Thursday 07 March 2024 18:15 GMT
Jeremy Hunt forced to defend Budget impact on low-income earners

Both the Conservatives and Labour are engaged in a “conspiracy of silence” about what will happen to the public finances after the election, the head of a leading economic think tank has said.

Responding to the spring Budget, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said both parties were not being straight about the “scale” of the trade-offs they will face after voters go to the polls.

“They, and we, could be in for a rude awakening when those choices become unavoidable,” he told a press conference on Thursday.

Mr Johnson also warned that the UK was facing its most difficult period financially since the Second World War.

“The combination of high debt interest payments and low forecast nominal growth means that the next parliament could well prove to be the most difficult of any in 80 years for a chancellor wanting to bring debt down,” he said.


We’re wrapping up our coverage of the Budget for today.

Join us again tomorrow for all the latest reaction and news from the world of Westminster.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 18:15

The hidden ‘horror’ in this lacklustre Budget could yet be its saving grace

By mistake rather than design, Jeremy Hunt has done the right thing and imposed a stealth tax on the one demographic group that is most likely to vote Tory – rich pensioners, says John Rentoul.

Read John’s piece in full here.

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 18:00

ICYMI: Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out May general election

Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out a May election as speculation mounts that he is eyeing an early poll.

The prime minister has previously said his “working assumption” is that he will go to the country in the second half of this year.

Full report:

Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out May general election

PM has previously said his ‘working assumption’ is to go to the country in the second half of this year

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 17:30

Furious Hunt attacks ‘unworthy’ BBC after Amol Rajan calls chancellor a ‘Soviet Drag Queen’

Jeremy Hunt called the BBC “unworthy” during heated exchanges on the Budget during an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme.

The chancellor criticised programme host Amol Rajan after he called Mr Hunt a “fiscal drag queen” and said his plans to boost NHS productivity were “Soviet.”

Full report:

Hunt attacks ‘unworthy’ BBC after Amol Rajan calls chancellor a ‘Soviet Drag Queen’

The chancellor and the presenter clashed after Amol Rajan blamed the chancellor for a ‘drifting’ and ‘stagnant’ economy

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 17:00

Tory former minister says ‘bad nerves’ not a reason to be on benefits

“Bad nerves” is not a reason to claim sickness benefits, a Tory former minister has said during a debate on the Budget.

Rachel Maclean said an unknown proportion of those claiming sickness benefits for mental health were citing “bad nerves”, which she described as a “totally meaningless” phrase.

Full report:

Tory former minister says ‘bad nerves’ not a reason to be on benefits

Ms Maclean clarified that she did not wish to criticise anyone with a mental health condition

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 16:37

Citigroup: Chancellor’s Budget ‘fiscally offside’ by £50-60bn

Citigroup has cast doubt on the sums in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget, describing the chancellor’s spending plans as “fiscally offside” by £50-60bn.

The global investment bank said the chancellor’s productivity costings were overly optimistic and that his planned spending cuts were “undeliverable”, Bloomberg reports.

It added that tens of billions of pounds extra would be needed to plug gaps.

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 16:15

Cameron emphasises ‘incredible unity’ between Germany and UK

Lord David Cameron emphasised the “incredible unity between allies” when asked about the leaked call between German military officials.

The foreign secretary was asked whether he agreed with Germany’s assessment that trust among allies is unbroken after the officials were heard in the leaked audio suggesting UK service personnel were on the ground in Ukraine.

He told a press conference in Berlin: “I don’t want to play into the hands of some Russian narrative about divisions between allies. What I see … is incredible unity between allies, incredible unity in Nato.

“Of course, we’re going to have areas where we want to discuss what more we can do, what more we can help. And those are the sorts of discussions that good friends and allies with this unity have in private.”


Matt Mathers7 March 2024 16:07

UK will likely need higher taxes to pay off debt

Stabilising the UK’s debt is likely to require additional tax rises, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Speaking at the IMF’s regular press briefing on Thursday, director of communications Julie Kozak told reporters: “IMF staff will be analysing the announced policies in greater detail but the aim to continue the fiscal consolidation pursued since 2022 to reduce inflation and stabilise debt is welcome.”

She added that the national insurance cut and reform of the child benefit system had been funded by “well-conceived revenue-raising measures”.

Ms Kozak said: “Significant spending to protect service delivery, growth-enhancing investment and the appropriate commitment to stabilise debt are likely to require additional revenue-raising measures in the medium term.”

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 16:03

Tory MP unhappy tourist tax not axed in Budget

Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told the Commons it was a disappointment that the tourist tax was not mentioned in Jeremy Hunt’s Budget speech.

The Cotswolds MP, who is campaigning against the tax, said: “If they can do it for the cut in capital gains tax, I say to them why can’t they do it for reintroduction of the tourist tax?”

He added: “This is huge stuff we are dealing with here, a huge potential benefit, and I cannot see why the Government won’t do a proper study into it, because what we know from our figures is that British businesses lost out by £1.5 billion in 2022, and even more in 2023.

“It would benefit many big retail shops, hospitality venues, airports and cultural destinations, and particularly areas of high tourist destinations like the Cotswolds. It also shows that Britain is missing out on a £10 billion EU market.”

Sir Geoffrey, MP for the Cotswolds
Sir Geoffrey, MP for the Cotswolds (PA Archive/PA Images)

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 15:54

Lord Cameron: Peace will only be achieved by giving Ukraine what it needs on battlefield

Lord David Cameron said that peace will be achieved by “helping the Ukrainians deliver what they need on the battlefield”.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin alongside his German counterpart, the Foreign Secretary said he and Annalena Baerbock discussed “what we can do in terms of medium and longer-range missiles”.

He said: “It’s a sovereign decision for every country. But in terms of what Britain has done, I know that what we have given to the Ukrainians has helped them to resist this appalling invasion.

“To all those in Germany and beyond and around the continent, around the world, who want to see an end to this conflict, who want to see a peaceful settlement, who want to see peace on our continent, I absolutely agree that you get peace through strength.z

“You get peace by demonstrating that Putin cannot win, you get peace by helping the Ukrainians deliver what they need on the battlefield.”

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and British foreign secretary David Cameron
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock and British foreign secretary David Cameron (REUTERS)

Matt Mathers7 March 2024 15:49

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