Jeremy Hunt kicks off by telling MPs the British economy is “proving the doubters wrong”, and the OBR is now forecasting there will be no recession, after the gloomy projections made in the autumn. “We are following the plan and the plan is working,” he says. Aubrey Allegretti, political correspondent: Hunt has the weight of his party and the country on his shoulders.
The first budget in 18 months – when the UK has had two chancellors come and go – carries huge implications for people struggling during the cost of living crisis, businesses concerned about economic stability, and the Conservatives’ polling deficit.
He nods to “difficult decisions” taken in the autumn and seeks to cajole grumpy Tory MPs by telling them “the plan is working”.
To try to boost their spirits, he declares “inflation has peaked” and gets huge cheers for declaring a recession looks likely to be avoided.After a vigorous campaign from the consumer rights champion Martin Lewis and many charities, Hunt confirms that the energy price guarantee will remain at £2,500 until July – it had been set to rise to £3,000.The chancellor says: “Some people remain in real distress, and we should always remain ready to help when we can.”He says the measure would save the average family £160.Hunt also announces extra help for those with prepayment meters, saying he will “bring their charges in line with comparable direct debit charges”.He also announces a £63m fund to help leisure centres and pools afford their energy bills, and £100m extra for charities facing soaring costs. Aubrey Allegretti, political correspondent: Aware that energy prices are a big contributor to people feeling the strain, Hunt knows news that the energy price guarantee being kept at £2,500Read more on theguardian.com