Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond has presented his Spring Statement to Parliament. It provides an update on the overall health of the economy and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts; and an economic update on progress made since Autumn Budget 2018.
Mr Hammond said the OBR has revised its forecast for growth to 1.2% for 2019, then 1.4% in 2020, 1.6% in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The forecast for borrowing is also £3 billion lower in 2018-19 than forecast at the Autumn Budget. The OBR has also confirmed that an extra £26 billion of spending power would be available - but only once a no-deal Brexit is off the table.
The Chancellor then broke with his own format by making a series of funding and policy announcements – although Mr Hammond admitted his plans will also depend on a Brexit deal being agreed in Parliament:
- The Treasury will conduct a full spending review before the summer recess, to be concluded before the Autumn Budget. This will set departmental budgets, including three-year budgets for resource spending.
- The Government will publish an International Education Strategy to 'strengthen our position at the forefront of global education' and an International Research and Innovation Strategy to 'ensure the UK retains its place as a global partner of choice for science and innovation collaboration'.
- Over £200 million for science and technology infrastructure: including £79 million to a new UK supercomputer (ARCHER 2); £81 million to a national Extreme Photonics Application Centre in Oxfordshire; £45 million for a critical upgrade to data storage cloud computing infrastructure at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridgeshire; and £60 million to guarantee funding for the Joint European Torus (JET) Funding (Fusion) facility over 2019/20.
- A global review into the Economics of Biodiversity and a mandate for net gains for biodiversity on new developments in England to deliver an overall increase in biodiversity.
- A call for evidence on a business energy efficiency scheme to explore how it can support investment in energy efficiency measures.
- Advancing the decarbonisation of gas supplies by increasing the proportion of green gas in the grid, helping to reduce dependence on burning natural gas in homes and businesses.
- Introducing a Future Homes Standard by 2025, so that new build homes are future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency.
- A call for evidence on Offsetting Transport Emissions to explore consumer understanding of carbon emissions from their journeys and their options to offset them.
- A consultation on Infrastructure Finance, seeking views on how the Government can best support private infrastructure investment in the context of the UK’s changing relationship with the European Investment Bank.
- Extra funding to tackle serious violence and knife crime, with £100 million available to police forces in the worst affected areas in England and Wales.
- The Department for Education will lead work to develop a national scheme in England to provide free sanitary products to girls in secondary schools.
- Professor Arindajit Dube will lead a review of the latest international evidence on minimum wages to inform future National Living Wage policy after 2020.
The Chancellor ended his statement by calling on MPs to remove the threat of a No Deal Brexit and end the uncertainty overshadowing the economy.