Finance minister to give brighter outlook for UK's Brexit-bound economy

SPRING STATEMENTMarch 12 2018 12:00pm The Times Spring statement Chancellor will get stuck into chewing gumnew Oliver Wright Policy Editor

SPRING STATEMENTMarch 12 2018 12:00pm The Times Spring statement Chancellor will get stuck into chewing gumnew Oliver Wright Policy Editor

Economists expect Mr Hammond will announce Government borrowing is set to be about £7bn lower in 2017-18 than had been predicted when he unveils the latest forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which will for the first time include spending estimates for the £35-39bn Brexit "divorce bill" agreed with the European Union in December.

Mr Hammond also said public sector net borrowing in 2017-18 would be 2.2 per cent, lower than the 2.4 per cent previously expected.

After cracking a couple of gags, Hammond also called Labour "economic fantasists" who wanted to "spend every available penny".

Senior government figures have told the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg that cabinet ministers have been discussing ways to funnel more money to the NHS in England, including potential future tax rises or a specific tax for health.

He said public service workers, including doctors and nurses, need Hammond to take action.

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The Spring Statement is a new development this year - it is not as significant as a Budget and is unlikely to be about policies.

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 11 Downing Street to deliver his half-yearly update on the public finances, in London, March 13, 2018.

Instead, Hammond unveiled the latest economic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility which show how the United Kingdom economy is performing.

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

It is expected to be "the first sustained fall in debt for 17 years, a turning point in the nation's recovery from the financial crisis of a decade ago".

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Britain's finance minister is expected to announce on Tuesday a modest improvement in the country's slow economic growth outlook in the run-up to Brexit, raising the prospect that he might relax his grip on public spending later this year.

Growth also looks set to be slightly higher than forecast past year - but public debt as a percentage of national income remains well above 80%.

"The chancellor says there is light at the end of the tunnel".

And after the Chancellor compared Labour to gloomy cartoon character Eeyore and himself to the more optimistic Tigger, shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne joked that Mr Hammond was "talking Pooh".

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