Darling: no pre-election giveaways

ALISTAIR Darling yesterday said Wednesday’s budget would be “sensible and workmanlike”, as he dampened speculation over a raft of pre-election giveaways.

Gordon Brown has been trying to convince the chancellor to unveil a series of vote-winning sweeteners ahead of an election on 6 May, because annual government borrowing is expected to undershoot forecasts by between £5bn and £10bn.

But Darling insisted there was “no question of giveaways”, adding that voters were “not daft” and would see through short-term gimmicks designed to appeal to the electorate.

One initiative will be the launch of a state-backed “green” investment bank, with £2bn of public and private backing, to finance companies planning environmental projects.

Darling appeared to rule out a rise in VAT before or after the election. Asked if there were plans to raise VAT to 20 per cent, bringing the UK in line with most of the European Union, Darling replied “no”.