Philip Hammond upbeat on growth and spending in spring statement

Chancellor to launch consultation on plastics tax

Image Raul Mee

"And while the budget deficit looks likely to come in nearly £5 billion lower this year than we expected in November, the explanations for this imply smaller downward revisions for future years".

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has delivered the Spring Statement for 2018, announcing a consultation on taxing plastic waste and encouraging digital payments.

His upbeat assessment in a Spring Statement had been widely trailed and although his speech was longer than had been predicted, it was limited in detailed financial commitments.

The OBR has released a statement explaining its revised forecasts for United Kingdom economic growth.

Yet in reply, Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: "Does the chancellor really believe the NHS can wait another eight months for the lifesaving funds it needs?"

Lower than expected borrowing and higher than predicted GDP growth past year will bring a note of optimism, but Philip Hammond has already suggested it is too early to take his foot off the austerity brake.

Hammond said the education secretary will release up to £80m to help small firms take on apprentices.

Hammond said the Treasury will launch a call for evidence to examine options on reducing single-use plastics, including taxes.

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On housing, the Chancellor said the Government was working with 44 authorities who have bid for a share of the £4.1 billion housing infrastructure fund.

Mr Hammond said the tech sector employed more than 1.5 million people and accounted for £6.8bn of investment in 2016, 50% higher than any other European country. Still, the forecasts for 2019 and 2020 were left unchanged at 1.3 percent, while 2021's was cut to 1.4 percent.

He said "substantial progress" has been made in Brexit talks.

But Hammond, delivering a half-yearly update on the government finances, said Britain's budget forecasters expected the economy to expand by 1.5 percent in 2018, up only a touch from a forecast of 1.4 percent in November even though the world economy is growing strongly.

Inflation hit 3.1% in November 2017, but the OBR predicted it had reached its peak.

The Chancellor claimed we are at a "turning point in the nation's recovery" as he announced the economy grew by 1.7 per cent in 2017, compared to the 1.5 per cent forecast at the Budget in November. Growth in 2017 was 1.7%, compared with the 1.5% forecast by the OBR past year.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has revealed what shape the United Kingdom economy is in a year out from Brexit.

He also said the government was considering new taxes on single-use plastic and on the profits of tech giants like Facebook and Google.

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