Chancellor Rishi Sunak took to the despatch box in the House of Commons shortly after 12.30pm on Wednesday (3 March) to deliver his Budget statement.
He announced an extension to the furlough scheme, new high street grants, and extra support for the self-employed, among other measures to support the economy as the UK seeks to emerge from the Covid crisis in the spring.
This year’s Budget is the first since the onset of the coronavirus crisis last March, which prompted Sunak to announce wide-ranging economic support measures – many of which remain in place today – just a few days after delivering the government’s annual fiscal plan on 11 March.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics have since revealed travel and tourism has been the sector hardest hit by the effects of the Covid crisis, with international travel demand – in particular – hugely depressed owing to travel restrictions.
Abta has urged the government to address its "blind spot" to travel which it says has meant "large swathes of the travel industry – including tour operators and homeworkers – have been excluded from support".
It is calling for tailored support for travel, along with an extension to the furlough scheme, high street support grants, and further business rates relief.
TTG will be bringing you live updates below from 12.30pm on the chancellor’s key Budget announcements, as well as further reaction throughout the afternoon via ttgmedia.com.
"A year ago in my first Budget, I announced our first response to coronavirus. What was thought to be a temporary disruption has fundamentally altered our lives. Businesses have been ordered to close, thousands are in hospital," says Sunak by way of setting the scene for his statement.
"Much has changed, but I said I would do whatever it takes, and I will. We have announced £280 billion in support. But despite this unprecedented support, the damage done to the economy is acute; 700,000 [people] have lost their jobs since last March, and the economy has shrunk by 10% – the largest in 300 years.
"It is going to take a long time to recover from this extraordinary economy situation. But we will recover. This Budget meets the moment with a three-part plan to protect jobs and livelihoods."
Sunak starts by outlining his plan to protect jobs.
There will be further targeted support "for those most affected by the pandemic":
Chancellor says he recognises some businesses will need loans to see them through when the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) comes to an end in March.
"This Budget will also protect businesses," says Sunak. New measures include:
Sunak says the ongoing business rates holiday will continue.
"One of the hardest hit sectors has been hospitality and tourism," says Sunak. "150,000 businesses employing more than 2.4 million people need our support."
Sunak says government’s total fiscal support over the past year and next will run to £407 billion.
"Coronavirus has caused one of the largest, most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced," says Sunak.
The damage has, and will continue to, create huge challenges for public finances, says the chancellor.
Borrowing is at its highest level since the Second World War and borrowing next year (2021/22) will be rivalled only by 2020/21, Sunak tells the Commons.
Levels of borrowing are not expected to fall to pre-Covid levels for the best part of another five years.
We need to begin "right now" with the work of fixing our public finances, says Sunak, announcing two measures to begin this work.
Businesses will be provided in excess of £100 billion in support so it is "only fair and necessary to ask them to contribute to our recovery", says the chancellor.
Chancellor says country must do "even more" to encourage businesses to invest immediately "to create jobs, lift growth, spur innovation and drive productivity".
"Right now, while many businesses are struggling, others have been able to build up significant cash reserves. We need to unlock that investment," says Sunak. "We need an investment-led recovery."