Chancellor George Osborne kicked off his fourth Budget this afternoon by saying he wanted to help those “who want to get on”.
He called it a Budget “for our aspiration nation”. He said the Government was “building a modern, reformed state, bringing business to our shores with competitive taxes and fixing the banks”.
He said there would be no change to the Government’s deficit-cutting programme which had helped bring about low interest rates.
Britain should be best place in the world to innovate, he said. There would be further help for research and development and support for the creative industries including tax relief for animation.
Mr Osborne cut corporation tax to by 1% to 20% from April 2015 -the lowest business tax of any major economy in the world, he said.
“Research and development is absolutely central to Britain’s economic future,” the chancellor said.
The Office for Budget Responsibility says the Government was on course to meet its fiscal mandate ayear early, Mr Osborne said.
Planning law overhaul had helped boost businesses, he said.
The Chancellor said he was “actively considering” extending the Funding for Lending scheme.
But he is making his speech against a backdrop of worsening economic figures which will force him to downgrade his forecasts. Adding to the air of gloom hanging over the economy,official figures this morning showed unemployment rose by 7,000 to 2.52m between November and January – although the number of people in work rose.
Mr Osborne concluded his speech by saying: “This is a Budget that doesn’t duck our nations problems. It confronts them head on. It’s a Budget for an aspiration nation.”