Hammond set to unveil consultation on plastic tax

Chewing gum on show

Mr Hammond, delivering a half-yearly update on the public finances, said Britain's budget forecasters expect the economy to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2018, up a touch from a forecast of 1.4 per cent in November.

The OBR's forecast for GDP growth was raised slightly in 2018 to 1.5 per cent, from 1.4 per cent, but growth is still forecast to fall to 1.3 per cent in 2019 and 2020, and only bumping up slightly to 1.5 per cent in the final year of the forecast - well below the two per cent level long seen as the UK's potential.

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

In the Autumn Budget, the government committed £44bn over five years to raise the supply of housing to 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Mr Hammond said he thought the economy may be on the "beginning of a turn in the trajectory of productivity performance".

Government borrowing will be £45.2 billion this year - some £4.7 billion lower than predicted in November and £108 billion lower than in 2010. Growth in 2017 was 1.7%, compared with the 1.5% forecast by the OBR a year ago.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel because what we are about to see is debt starting to fall after it has been growing for 17 continuous years", said the Chancellor.

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He said the predicted falling debt load as a percentage of GDP in the 2018-19 fiscal year marked a "turning point in this nation's recovery".

He also said the debt forecast is coming down, and by the end of the Parliament will have fallen significantly, saying that there is now "light at the end of the tunnel".

Mr Hammond criticised Mr McDonnell for his "bully boys" remark and later said of Labour's economic approach: "Every now and again the mask slips and we get a glimpse of the sinister ideology that lies beneath, an ideology that would wreck our economy if he ever gets anywhere near the controls".

Mr Hammond said some businesses were avoiding paying VAT on sales, but he added that others were simply unfamiliar with paying taxes as this had been done on their behalf.

He said: "Our economy will remain and open and outward-looking, confident to compete with the best in the world". Either way, Hammond delivered a fine political speech.

'The stamp duty concessions have definitely prompted more interest among first-time buyers, who are often taking the place of investors at the lower end of the market.

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