"Tigger-like" Philip Hammond tells MPs "There's light at the end of the tunnel"

 
Catherine Neilan
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Hammond cracked some gags and said he was at his "most Tigger-like" today (Source: Getty)

Philip Hammond has kicked off Spring Statement day with an optimistic tone, telling his colleagues there is "light at the end of the tunnel".

During a briefing in this morning's Cabinet, the chancellor told Prime Minister Theresa May and other ministers that debt will peak this year at 85.6 per cent of GDP. He added that the improvement in the country's financial state was "thanks to the hard work of the British public".

It was a line he repeated from the despatch box as he gave MPs his biannual update on the nation's finances, confirming that the OBR had revised its forecast upwards slightly. "But forecasts are there to be broken," Hammond said.

He told MPs: "I am at my most Tigger-like today", saying the "Eeyores" – a description normally applied to him – were sitting on the benches opposite.

After cracking a couple of gags, Hammond also called Labour "economic fantasists" who wanted to "spend every available penny". He insisted he had committed £60bn to public spending, with £4bn going into the NHS in 2018/19 alone, praising staff for their work during the recent winter crisis.

Hammond said “substantial progress” has been made in the Brexit talks – although this was met with laughter from many MPs.

Ignoring this, the chancellor said he was looking forward to another step forward at next week’s EU summit.

The Treasury will today publish information about how the £1.5bn that has been set aside for Brexit planning will be spent.

More detail will also be revealed for how the £190m set aside for improving full-fibre broadband access will be spent.

He also took aim at Labour's efforts to "undermine the market economy", which Hammond says is responsible for having lifted the country's quality of life. Instead, he wants to support businesses.

On business rates, he said the revaluation would be brought forward to 2020/21 and then move to a triennial revaluation system thereafter.

He also unveiled some plans for future movement on tax, including a consultation on a new VAT collection mechanism for online payments and how to encourage digital payments.

A consultation on tax cuts for low-emission vans and on what can be done to reduce the use of plastics will also take place.

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