CHANCELLOR George Osborne delivered his final Budget before May’s general election.
Follow the address as it happened below.
1.45pm: Mr Miliband predicts rise in VAT if the Conservatives are in power after the election.
“What’s the lesson? Deny it before an election and then hike up VAT afterwards,” he said.
The Labour leader also accused the Chancellor of creating a new measure of living standards because the Office for National Statistics model shows people are worse off under him.
He said: “People don’t need a new measure which pretends they are better off, they need a new government to make them better off. That is the reality behind the Budget that can’t be believed.
“You pose as a friend of the low paid ... you could not make it up.”
1.41pm: Andrew Whitaker writes: “The Liberal Democrats are’locked in the boot of the Conservatives’, Ed Miliband states, in attack on role of Lib Dems in coalition since 2010. Chancellor is ‘no friend of the north.’”
Adds that the Conservative Party are the ‘political wing of the tax avoidance industry.’
1.37pm: Andrew Whitaker writes: “Ed Miliband sticking to his campaign line of stating that people are worse off than they were five years ago plus saying ‘government of the few by the few’ and the ‘trust fund Chancellor.’”
1.36pm: Ed Miliband’s opening salvo: “This is a budget that people won’t believe from a government they don’t trust.”
1.32pm: Osborne’s final words: “This is the Budget for Britain, the comeback country.”
1.31pm: The Scotsman’s Political Editor Tom Peterkin writes: “More detail on Osborne’s plans for the North Sea, as well as cutting the supplementary charge he announced a cut in the tax on petroleum tax revenues from 50 per cent to 35 per cent. This, he says, is worth £1.3 billion in support for this “vital industry”.
The Chancellor couldn’t resist making a political point after last year’s referendum.
“An independent Scotland could never been able to afford such a package of support. One of the strengths of our 300-year Union is that just as we pool resources we share challenges. We are one United Kingdom,” he said.
1.30pm: Above inflation rise in threshold for 40p income tax rate from £42,385 this year to £43,300 by 2017/18. Transferable tax allowance for married couples to rise to £1,100.
1.29pm: Andrew Whitaker, The Scotsman’s Scottish Political Correspondent, says: “Ed Miliband will respond for Labour to George Osborne’s budget soon. Such response on budget day, generally viewed as one of most difficult jobs in Commons as have to hit back instantly.”
1.28pm: Osborne says personal tax allowance will reach £10,800 next year and £11,000 the following year. A change that will save working families £900 a year and benefit 27 million people, he adds.
1.27pm: Biggest laugh of the speech as far, according to our highly scientific bant-o-meter was Osborne’s reference to people controlling two fridges from one mobile phone. And it wasn’t even the first ‘two kitchens’ joke of the address.
1.22pm: Osborne announces duty on beer cut 1p per pint, cider down 2 per cent and whisky down 2 per cent. Hic!
1.18pm: “More generous” tax credits for TV and film, expanded support for video games industry and new tax credit for orchestras.
1.16pm: Was there a Scottish force at Agincourt? Answers on a postcard, please...
1.15pm: Osborne announces £1.3 billion of support for North Sea oil industry.
1.14pm: Both Aberdeen and Inverness included in the list of cities being considered for the City Deal. Glasgow city deal to continue, Osborne says.
1.12pm: Chancellor announces £1 million to buy defibrillators for public places, including schools.
1.09pm: Scottish Air Ambulance service to get funding for new helicopter from Libor fines on banks.
1.06pm: Chancellor announces a cut in the lifetime pension allowance from £1.25 million to £1 million. He also says there will be a review of inheritance tax avoidance through deeds of valuation.
12.57pm: Deficit forecasts from Autumn Statement revised downwards to 4 per cent in 2015/16, 2 per cent in 2016/17 and 0.6 per cent in 2017/18. Budget surplus of 0.2 per cent forecast for 2018/19 and 0.3 per cent for 2019/20.
12.56pm: Austerity to be ended a year early because of Osborne using £57bn windfall to pay off national debt. He has also defied claims state spending will be lowest since 1930s instead will be same as 2000.
12.53pm: Rather than pre-election give-aways, Osborne says the “central judgement of this Budget” will be to use the resources from the bank sales, lower interest payments and lower welfare bills “to pay down the national debt”.
Chancellor claims that he has met his target to lower the national debt share.
12.51pm: Osborne: “The sun is starting to shine and we are fixing the roof.”
12.46pm: George Osborne’s mum, dad and wife in gallery to watch what might be his last Budget...
12.45pm: Households are £900 better off than in 2010, says Osborne.
12.43pm: Osborne predicts growth of 2.3 per cent for 2016 remaining at that level for 2017 and 2018.
He declares that Britain was working again saying 1.9 million jobs have been created and claimant count unemployment was at its lowest level since 1975.
Unemployment down to 5.3 per cent, down three percentage points on the level inherited from the last Labour Government.
12.42pm: Ed Miliband’s face looks like he can’t believe what he is hearing.
12.41pm: Osborne uses Greek crisis as a reason for UK to look at other world markets outside the eurozone. Will please eurosceptic backbenchers.
12.40pm: OBR confirms UK economy grew 2.6 per cent last year - 50 per cent faster than Germany and faster than any other major economy.
12.39pm: According to the Chancellor, the UK is paying its way and is growing faster than any other major advanced economy in the world.
Osborne said there were now more people in jobs than ever before. He also said living standards were higher than when they came into office, perhaps anticipating Labour’s line of attack that Britain is facing a cost of living crisis.
The deficit as a share of national income has more than halved, said Osborne as he characterised the choice facing the electorate as one between “a return to the chaos of the past” or “carrying on working through the plan”.
12.36pm: Most important stat for Osborne in his opening list of achievements is that living standards are higher than in 2010. Labour’s big attack was on the cost of living.
12.33pm: George Osborne wearing a very dour grey tie for Budget. Given the austerity still to come it might be a nod to the sadomasochism of 50 Shades.
We already know that George Osborne will bring to an end the yearly tax reforms filled in by 12 million people, and he is thought to have a £6 billion windfall to spend on reducing the impact of austerity as a result of low inflation.
Other measures expected to be announced include giving pensioners access to annuities early, and introducing incentives to help the ailing North Sea oil and gas industry.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney has urged the Chancellor to ditch his “fundamentally flawed” economic policy and call an end to “deep spending cuts”.
Mr Swinney also demanded George Osborne use his pre-election Budget to bring in a package of measures to help the North Sea oil and gas industry.