12:34 As predicted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance last week, Gordon Brown is using his Budget speech to stress the existing and emerging challenges international competition – but as also predicted, he is stressing competition in terms of education and research and development without any reference to the burdens on business imposed by tax…
12:37 Brown concedes independent basis for Office for National Statistics – bows to question marks over reliability of his numbers?
12:40 Brown has stuck to his guns re. Treasury forecasts of the rate of economic growth Britain can expect in the coming years – but only after downgrading the forecasts by half three months ago … With British taxes under Brown rising to rates higher even than Germany’s and the UK’s economic competitiveness declining consequently it is to be entirely expected that the economy is responding negatively.
12:43 Brown claims Golden rule will be met – but this is a rewritten Golden rule.
12:45 Brown claims the Conservative Party’s growth rule would require £17 billion in spending cuts.
12:47 Government borrowing is at least for now to remain at its current high levels – with taxpayers having to pay back this borrowing plus interest for years to come. On the Today programme this morning George Osborne predicted it will have to rise to £10 billion.
12:48 John Prescott seems to be having trouble staying awake.
12:50 Business productivity – perhaps the chief embarrassment of Brown’s economic stewardship – is skated over very swiftly … but public sector productivity goes unmentioned … This is unsurprising – not only have Brown’s major increases in taxes and spending failed to boost public sector productivity, but the evidence is mounting – see above all Graham Leach’s brilliant report for Reform – that under Brown the relationship between spending and productivity in the state sector has been negative with public services under Labour proving less and less efficient the more tax money is spent on them.
12:51 Interesting to hear Brown also talking about links with foreign universities, as the TPA predicted. Good spin from Brown…
12:53 The Tory attacks on Brown as the ‘roadblock to reform’ have obviously hit home: Brown is now calling for serious reform of emergy markets at EU level.
12:54 Brown promises to double R&D tax credits: why not just cut corporate taxes?
12:56 The Chancellor pledges to revamp export quango UKTI. This is the second relaunch for this quango since 1997.
12:59 Brown is playing up his record on the environment. Despite green taxes falling under his chancellorship up until now.
13:04 As widely expected Gordon Brown has announced special higher taxes on 4X4s (what Ken Livingstone called Chelsea tractors). … This may prove a sound political strategy by the Chancellor – forcing Cameron’s Conservatives to choose between the party’s traditional low tax message and its new green image. But the And Theory of Conservatism offers the way out of this trap – by stressing newer ideas for conservatives such as environmental protection while also standing by traditional conservative messages on taxes, the false choice between retaining the party’s old message and traditional support base and reaching out to new supporters with new issues could be refuted.
… Irwin Stelzer suggested on the Today programme this morning one variation of the And Theory of Conservatism combining environmental protection with support for a competitive, low tax economy via his proposal that ‘green taxes’ are acceptable if they are combined with lower taxes on business.
13:08 Brown’s answer to the difficulties ordinary families face always seems to be more complicated tax credits. What people really want is lower taxes…
13:11 Taxes on cigarettes are to increase once again – in spite of the obvious effects: go into any pub in a less affluent area of the country and the cigarettes being smoked will be covered with foreign warnings – taxpayers’ penalties are smugglers’ reward in this area.
13:13 Prescott now asleep.
13:17 Brown admits he could cut taxes, but prefers to expand expenditure.
13:19 New sports quango announced – the Bumper Book of Government Waste calculated the annual cost of existing quangos to be more than £22 billion.
13:21 New quango announced to tell charities how to work.
13:23 Brown repeats his reliance on the discredited Gerschon Review – no one believes the numbers are real. There will be no real cuts in head count or waste in the public sector.
13:25 We are obviously going to be far more competitive with India and China because more people have done discredited GCSEs and A Levels. They must be quaking in their boots!!
13:27 Typical Brown response: wants to throw more money at the problem – the explanation for our failing education system is the fact that all schools are controlled by politicians – they need to be given complete freedom.
13:29 Prescott has woken up again.
13:30 Brown promises new OAP off-peak bus pass: trying to take them for a ride?
13:32 The Chancellor sits down.