Budget 2017 – Make or break, or just about do?

Prior to this year’s Budget Statement the Prime Minister delivered what could reasonably be described as an ‘OK performance’ at PMQs. The questions were thorny as usual but Mrs May was able to keep her head above water, despite what one Cabinet insider called “the worst Budget build-up in history”.

When the Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle took over and called on the Chancellor though, the mood in the chamber was markedly different and probably the tensest since the initial months of the credit crunch. It was of course time for the “make or break Budget”.

Observers during the opening passages of Philip Hammond’s speech would have been unable to ignore the sea of pensive-looking Conservatives behind him, many with crossed arms and steady glares. Chris Grayling – about as far away from the action as possible with his back pressed against the main entrance – stood almost as if there was a bad smell coming from the despatch box. As for the PM, she looked positively queasy.

The Conservative backbenches did eventually appear to warm up – perhaps realising that they didn’t have the stomach to watch one of their own be swallowed up by the toxicity of the atmosphere, even if some of them do consider him public enemy number one to the Brexit cause.

Lingering tensions finally seemed to dissipate when the Chancellor earned sympathetic laughter as he told the House that he had asked the Prime Minister to bring cough sweets just in case and Mrs May responded swiftly by placing a box of Strepsils onto the despatch box in front of him.

By the time the speech ran to a close over an hour later, the provisional conclusions being drawn by political editors and pundits appeared to be that Hammond had likely done enough to buy his Government time but that it was less than the barnstormer some within the Conservative Party had insisted it must be. May patted him on the back and mouthed words of reassurance as he sat back down. His job looked secure for the moment.

With all the anticipation and subtext surrounding this Budget Statement, one could be forgiven for losing focus on the substance being put forward. Thankfully, Portcullis’ research team have put together a list of the most salient announcements below. If you want our full digest for Budget 2017, please email info@portcullispublicaffairs.com or call 020 7368 3100.

Top-level takeaways

  • ECONOMY: Growth forecasts cut, but debt peaking this year and borrowing falling every year for the next 5 years.
  • HEALTH: £2.8bn more for the NHS in England.
  • HOUSING: Stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers for properties under £300k, and for the first £300k for those in London under £500k.
  • BENEFITS: £1.5bn to address Universal Credit rollout problems.
  • EMPLOYMENT: National Living Wage to rise in April 2018 by 4.4%, from £7.50 an hour to £7.83.
  • FUEL: Fuel duty rise for petrol and diesel cars scheduled for April 2018 scrapped.

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