'Optimistic' Sunak gets Budget firepower thanks to UK growth upgrade

Will Rishi splash the cash? ‘Optimistic’ Sunak gets Budget firepower thanks to UK growth being nearly TWICE forecasts as families beg for help with raging inflation and pubs hope for alcohol duty cut – but Tories sound alarm on £2.2TRILLION debt mountain

  • In the Budget today, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will confirm a rise of minimum wage to £9.50
  • Mr Sunak will hail his Budget as ushering in a ‘new economy’ for Britain after the coronavirus pandemic
  • Official forecasts set to show the economy is rebounding faster than expected, allowing for more spending 
  • He will also stress fiscal responsibility inflation forecast could reduce household incomes by £1,000 next year


The Government has already announced spending worth more than £30billion which Rishi Sunak will confirm at the Budget later today. 

Below is a breakdown of some of the most notable funding pledges: 

  • The national minimum wage will increase from £8.91 to £9.50 from April next year. 
  • An extra £6billion will be given to the NHS to pay for new equipment and new facilities to clear the Covid backlog.
  • Brownfield sites covering the equivalent of 2,000 football pitches could be turned into plots for housing as part of a £1.8billion injection.
  • A £2.6billion pot of funding will be set up to help children with special educational needs and disabilities. 
  • Levelling up transport outside of London will benefit to the tune of nearly £7billion, paying for a range of projects, including tram improvements. 
  • The Department of Health and Social Care will receive £5billion over the next three years to fund research and development in areas such as genome sequencing and tackling health inequalities. 
  • A cash injection of £3billion will be given to both post-16 education but also to adults later in life. 
  • £850million will be spent over three years to ‘breathe life’ back into cultural hotspots like London’s V&A museum, Tate Liverpool and the Imperial War Museum in Duxford.   
  • Ageing Border Force vessels will be replaced by new cutters as part of a £700million investment to improve the safety of Britain’s borders. 

Rishi Sunak will today vow to create a ‘new age of optimism’ after Covid as he is handed Budget firepower with growth forecasts set to be nearly doubled.

The Chancellor has a bit more money to deploy due to the strong bounceback from the pandemic – with the independent Office for Budget Responsibility expected to say UK plc will grow by 7 per cent this year instead of the 4 per cent it pencilled in in March.

The incredibly resilient labour market means borrowing so far this year is well over £30billion below previous estimates.

Rumours are swirling that Mr Sunak will deploy some of the headroom to ease the pressures on families and businesses from raging inflation and supply chain chaos.

He has already declared that the minimum wage will be hiked, and the public sector pay freeze is being axed. 

There is speculation of a boost to universal credit when he unveils the full fiscal package this afternoon, while alcohol duty could be cut to help pubs.  

However, the Chancellor has also stressed the need to balance the books after the £400billion cost of the pandemic, with Tories raising alarm about the massive £2.2trillion debt and the looming threat of inflation driving up interest rates.  

Mr Sunak will hail his Budget as ushering in a ‘new economy’ after the pandemic as he confirms billions of pounds for the NHS and wage rises for millions of workers.

During his speech, Mr Sunak is expected to say: ‘Today’s Budget begins the work of preparing for a new economy post-Covid. An economy of higher wages, higher skills and rising productivity of strong public services, vibrant communities and safer streets.

‘An economy fit for a new age of optimism. That is the stronger economy of the future.’

The easing of lockdown restrictions and the vaccine rollout mean the economy is in better shape than was expected at the time of the last financial statement in March.

Growth forecasts for this year will be revised from 4 per cent potentially to as high as 7.5 per cent.

The OBR watchdog’s prediction for the ‘scarring’ from the pandemic – the permanent loss to the economy – could also be lowered. 

That will give Mr Sunak more leeway to pump money into public services as he sets out spending plans for Whitehall departments for three years.

However, the biggest-ticket item – the £12billion a year NHS and social care boost funded by an eye-watering national insurance hike – has already been revealed last month. 

In a further positive bit of news for Mr Sunak, there are claims today that the chances of ‘Plan B’ Covid restrictions have fallen dramatically after the surge in cases levelled off.   

On a big day in Westminster:

  • Ministers unveiled a new funding model to encourage more British investment in nuclear power stations – squeezing China out but risking higher home energy bills;
  • Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle complained Mr Sunak was treating MPs in a ‘discourteous manner’ by pre-briefing some of his Budget announcements;
  • Union bosses demanded all public-sector workers should be given inflation-busting pay rises;
  • It was warned that a new inflation forecast could reduce household incomes by £1,000 next year in real terms;
  • The Budget is set to include a freeze on fuel duty – but not a cut on VAT on energy bills;
  • MPs have been urged to wear masks during the Chancellor’s Budget speech by a World Health Organisation Covid expert.

In the Budget today, Rishi Sunak will declare Britain is ready to enter a ‘new age of optimism’ and a ‘post-Covid’ economy. Pictured: Mr Sunak with his pet puppy Nova

Rishi Sunak was pictured in one of his trademark grey sweatshirt, as well as American-style footwear that comes with a hefty £95 price tag

Energy bills will shoot up by at least £100 next year – or possibly £200 – because of the failure of suppliers, the boss of British Gas owner Centrica yesterday warned.

A total of 16 energy suppliers have gone bust so far this year because of soaring wholesale gas prices. It has been predicted as many as 20 more will fail in the next few weeks. The price cap on tariffs means that energy companies are paying more for gas and electricity than what they are allowed to charge customers.

Centrica chief executive Chris O’Shea told the House of Lords yesterday that the shortfall would cost ‘every single home in the UK’ £100.

He added: ‘It’s not unreasonable to expect that to double in the next few weeks…’

The Treasury has pledged green investment and policies to take advantage of post-Brexit freedoms and has touted nearly £7billion of new funding for local transport.

Mr Sunak will also set out new fiscal rules, which are expected to include a commitment to stop borrowing to fund day-to-day spending within three years.

It is thought he will also require government debt, running at about 100 per cent of gross domestic product, to start falling by 2025.

Office for National Statistics figures showed last week government borrowing was far lower than forecast in the first half of the fiscal year. 

The budget deficit was £108.1billion between April and September, almost 30 per cent below predictions. However, Mr Sunak will strike a note of caution about how servicing the debt could become much dearer if prices rise.

In March, he pointed out that a 1 per cent rise in interest rates and inflation would cost us over £25billion, adding: ‘Over the medium term, we cannot allow debt to keep rising, and, given how high our debt now is, we need to pay close attention to affordability.’

Former Treasury minister David Gauke told Radio 4’s the World At One yesterday: ‘In the short term there is going to be some good news for the Chancellor as the economy has grown faster than projected.’ 

But he added: ‘There are still some real challenges.’

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves urged Mr Sunak to ‘take the pressure off working people’.

She added: ‘Labour would ease the burden on households, cutting VAT on domestic energy bills immediately for six months, and we would not raise taxes on working people and British businesses while online giants get away without paying their fair share.’

Tory MP Sir John Redwood said: ‘When do we get the plans to run down the one off pandemic spending? Where is the plan to run railway services for the new pattern of working, to drive down the huge losses? Government needs to spend wisely.’ 

Mr Sunak will confirm a rise of minimum wage to £9.50 from April however, it was warned that a new inflation forecast could reduce household incomes by £1,000 next year. Pictured: A can of Sprite and a Twix next to Rishi’s red box, he said was his ‘pre-game routine’ for the Budget

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Commons Speaker, (pictured) complained Mr Sunak was treating MPs in a ‘discourteous manner’ by pre-briefing some of his Budget announcements and said announcements should be to MPs first rather than the media 

Relaxed: Rishi keeps his feet warm in socks and a trendy pair of £95 ‘sliders’ made by fashion label Palm Angels as he puts the finishing touches to his Budget

No time for flip-flopping, Chancellor! 

By HARRIET LINE, Chief Political Correspondent, for the Daily Mail 

Rishi Sunak teamed a pair of socks with £95 ‘sliders’ as he put the final touches on his Budget.

In glossy photos released by the Treasury, the Chancellor could be seen sporting the American-style shoes, made by fashion label Palm Angels.

‘Sliders’ are similar to flip flops but without a central toe post, and popular with sports stars.

Another photo showed a can of Sprite and a Twix bar next to his red box – after the Chancellor said he would eat the sugary snacks as his ‘pre-game routine’ pre-Budget.

But the Chancellor, who is teetotal, will not enjoy a sharpener like some of his predecessors as he delivers his speech in the Commons today.

Last year Mr Sunak raised eyebrows after pre-Budget photos showed a £180 travel mug on his desk.

The ‘Ember’ smart mug, a Christmas present from his wife, keeps hot drinks such as tea or coffee at the exact same temperature for up to three hours and comes with its own charging coaster.

Labour’s child poverty spokesman Wes Streeting said last night: ‘I don’t care if the Chancellor chooses to spend £95 of his money on a pair of flip-flops, but I do care that he’s so out of touch that he doesn’t understand the impact of taking £20 a week off low-paid workers and what it means for 200,000 kids pushed into poverty by his policy.’

Sir Lindsay Hoyle blasts ‘discourteous’ Rishi Sunak for releasing parts of his Budget ahead of time and without telling Parliament first as MPs accuse ministers of ‘treating parliamentary democracy with utter contempt’

by JACK MAIDMENT, Deputy Political Editor, and DAVID WILCOCK, Whitehall Correspondent, for MailOnline 

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle stepped up his war of words with the Government today as he tore into Rishi Sunak over a slew of pre-Budget policy announcements. 

The Chancellor will deliver his eagerly awaited Budget tomorrow in front of MPs but the Treasury has set out numerous policies in the media ahead of the financial statement. 

That approach has prompted repeated rebukes from Sir Lindsay, who is adamant all policy announcements should be made to politicians first. 

Sir Lindsay, who has made a point of rebuking ministers for making announcements outside the Commons,  criticised ministers over the approach yesterday and did the same again this afternoon after more fiscal details were briefed. 

The Commons Speaker accused Mr Sunak and the Treasury of treating Parliament in a ‘discourteous manner’ as he vowed to do everything in his power to ensure ministers answer MPs’ questions. 

Meanwhile, MPs on both sides of the chamber expressed their anger at the Government’s communications strategy, accusing ministers of ‘treating parliamentary democracy with utter contempt’. 

It is the latest stand-off between the Speaker and ministers. In June Boris Johnson agreed to make major Covid decisions to Parliament as well as to the nation on television after he was given a blunt telling off.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle today stepped up his war of words with the Government as he blasted Rishi Sunak for making pre-Budget policy announcements.

The Chancellor will deliver his Budget tomorrow but the Treasury has set out numerous policies ahead of the financial statement

Mr Sunak joked that his dog Nova had not been very excited by the proposals he will unveil tomorrow 

Sir Lindsay granted a second urgent question in two days to force Treasury ministers to appear in the Commons to answer questions on the forthcoming fiscal event.

He said the ministerial code states important announcements of Government policy should be made to Parliament first when it is in session.   

Sir Lindsay told the Commons: ‘I was disappointed to see more stories in the media today with apparently very well-briefed information about what will be in tomorrow’s Budget.’

He accused the Government of treating the Commons in a ‘discourteous manner’, adding: ‘This House will not be taken for granted, it’s not right for everybody to be briefed, it’s not more important to go on the news in the morning, it’s more important to come here.’

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke defended the Government as he argued part of the objective in ‘trailing specific aspects of the Budget in advance is to help communicate to the public what we’re doing with their hard-earned money’.  

Responding to a pre-Budget urgent question from Labour, he said: ‘The ability of Parliament to scrutinise the Government, including the Budget, is clearly crucial which is why we’ve got five days of parliamentary debate ahead of us this week and next and why the the Chancellor will be appearing in addition in front of two select committees of this House next week.’ 

He said the ‘bulk of the detail of the Budget’ will be set out by Mr Sunak in the Commons tomorrow.   

He added: ‘Part of the Government’s objective in trailing specific aspects of the Budget in advance is to help communicate to the public what we’re doing with their hard-earned money because we believe there is merit in clear and accurate information.’

Mr Clarke faced criticism from both Labour and Tory MPs. 

Conservative Julian Lewis asked the minister: ‘Why is it important, right or necessary to share Budget information with the media before it is shared with this House where it can be subjected to proper scrutiny? And will he give an undertaking on behalf of the Treasury team to stop doing it?’

Labour’s Angela Eagle added: ‘This is treating parliamentary democracy with utter contempt, and the minister should be completely ashamed of himself, he should have come to this House and apologised, his boss should have come to this House and apologised.’

Sir Lindsay has repeatedly tackled ministers on their habit of making political announcements at press conferences and in briefings to the press.

In January he hit out at Boris Johnson again for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs.

The Commons Speaker told the Commons the Prime Minister ‘should be here, I’m sorry if his dinner would have been affected’ after Mr Johnson announced an extension of coronavirus measures to the media.

He accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament, and said Number 10’s treatment of Parliament has been ‘totally unacceptable’ as he again stressed that announcements should first be made at the despatch box. 

In June he summoned the PM for showdown talks amid a furious bust-up over the four-week lockdown delay.

Mr Johnson was slapped down by Sir Lindsay for ‘disrespecting’ MPs with a live television broadcast from Downing Street – because MPS should have been the first to be told.

Yesterday he referenced the 1947 resignation of Hugh Dalton, who quit as Labour chancellor after parts of his Budget were published in in a paper before he gave his speech, in an attack on Mr Sunak.

On his way into the chamber he told John Carvel, a reporter for the now defunct Star newspaper: ‘No more on tobacco; a penny on beer; something on dogs and pools but not on horses; increase in purchase tax, but only on articles now taxable; profits tax doubled.’  

The reporter managed to turn around the information faster than the chancellor could announce it and the politician stepped down the following day. 

It created a Whitehall precedent that leaking a Budget in advance was the most serious of leaks. But that rule has been eroded in recent years, with leaks of information starting under New Labour.

Sir Lindsay said: ‘At one time ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a Budget – they walked.’

Shouts of ‘resign’ could be heard, with the Speaker adding: ‘Yes, absolutely, resign. It seems to me we’ve got ourselves in a position that if you’ve not got it out five days before, it’s not worth putting out.

‘I’ve got to say, members are elected to this House to represent their constituents, those constituents quite rightly expect the MP to hear it first in order to be able to listen to what the Budget is about, but also for the days following that to be able to hold them to account. It’s not acceptable and the Government shouldn’t try to run roughshod over this House, it will not happen.’

We are yet to be told what colour skimpies Mr Sunak will wear: HENRY DEEDES on the endless pre-Budget briefings

Simon Clarke was minutes into his first big appearance at the dispatch box and already the new boy of the Treasury had the House bent over double.

How they laughed. There was hootering, hollering and much slapping of knees. Even Mr Speaker rocked back in his chair and clapped his hands.

Such a reception would usually be cause for cheer to a jittery, wet-behind-the-ears minister looking to make his mark.

The problem for Treasury minister Mr Clarke was that the chamber was laughing at him rather than with him.

He was answering an urgent question about all these loose-lipped pre-Budget briefings that have been going on all week. 

Simon Clarke was minutes into his first big appearance at the dispatch box and already the new boy of the Treasury had the House bent over double, writes HENRY DEEDES

The Treasury’s been leakier than a busted colander, squirting out details on what to expect today right up to what type of chocolate Rishi Sunak plans to nibble on.

The only surprise is tongue-wagging mandarins are yet to tell us what colour skimpies the Chancellor plans to wear.

Not that Mr Clarke knew about any of this of course. Goodness, no. With the haughty, butter-wouldn’t-melt innocence of a cherub-cheeked princeling, he loftily informed the House: ‘I will not comment on leaks.’

Cue the hysterical eruption. Even some of Clarke’s fellow Tory MPs howled like a pack of crazed coyotes. Poor Clarke. It was hardly his fault. Barely has he had chance to unpack his calculator at the Treasury and here he was covering for the Chancellor.

Some newbies might have been tempted to remind the Chamber of this fact. Instead, he did the only thing he could – stood tall and accepted every rotten cabbage bunged at him.

Incidentally, standing tall is one thing Clarke – at 6ft 7in – does well. Take away the wonkish glasses and he could pass for an NBA superstar. 

Mischievous types claim Boris only sent him to the Treasury to make Rishi (5ft 6in) feel even more of a titch. 

Clarke’s tone was apologetic without ever issuing an apology. He served up some tosh about communicating with the public about how their money was going to be spent and insisted none of the strictures of the Budget embargo had been broken.

‘That’s a matter of judgment!’ yelled Sir Lindsay Hoyle, pictured below, who has made his furious feelings known about the Whitehall seepage.

The anger spread to Clarke’s own benches. John Redwood (Con, Wokingham) reiterated the need for Budget secrecy.

Labour’s benches welcomed Mr Redwood’s remarks. Not something we see often. Jake Berry (Con, Rossendale) wondered if we could expect to hear anything today which hadn’t already been reported. 

Yes, yes, plenty more rabbits out of hats to come, Clarke assured him. ‘Just watch Sky TV tomorrow!’ cried Sir Lindsay. More laughs.

The most combustible intervention came from Angela Eagle (Lab, Wallasey). Usually Ms Eagle speaks with the enthusiasm of a British Rail announcer approaching retirement. Yesterday she was snarling. ‘Contempt!’, she yelled. ‘Ashamed …apologise!’

Clarke clocked a rare moment to make a joke. ‘As a former Treasury Minister herself, I’m sure she would never have engaged in any activity of this kind,’ he said.

Ms Eagle’s humour tends to be quite selective. Rarely does she see much mirth in anything and yesterday was no different. ‘No!’ she screamed. ‘Shameful!’

Some 40 minutes passed before Sir Lindsay eventually allowed Clarke to go on his way. Applicants to American frat houses endure less sadistic initiation ceremonies. Speaking of initiations, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also made her debut at Foreign Office questions.

Ms Truss, at the risk of sounding like a 1970s promotional film, is a Minister on the Move. Barely a week passes without her appearing in a glossy photo shoot. What’s more, she’s upped her social media game and is debuting a jaunty new haircut.

Yet for all the posturing, she lacks authority. Someone unfamiliar with politics who watched her yesterday would have struggled to identify her as the senior minister in her department.

This is not a problem Priti Patel would ever have. Nor Rishi Sunak for that matter. The latter remains the King in Waiting but let’s see how today’s Budget fares. It feels like it could be a moment.

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