Previewing the Autumn Statement with Graeme Littlejohn

In anticipation of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Newgate has asked a panel of experts what they hope to hear from Philip Hammond.

graeme-littlejohn

Head of External Affairs, Scotch Whisky Association

The Chancellor’s first Autumn Statement may well be his last… in order to facilitate a shift back to a more traditional ‘Pre-Budget Report’. Under George Osborne, Autumn Statements became increasingly like a mini-Budget, with tax changes and major policy announcements supplementing the use of OBR forecasts to update Parliament. Not only will this shift underline the new Government’s desire for a more focussed, long term approach to policy making, but it will also be welcomed by businesses that found responding a major fiscal event every six months burdensome.

That said, this will not be a lightweight statement. The new Chancellor has to make waves for two reasons. Firstly, this – remarkably – is the first fiscal statement to Parliament when neither Gordon Brown nor George Osborne have sat on the government front bench since March 1997. Back then, Ken Clarke famously delivered his Budgets with a glass of Scotch Whisky close by. Whilst decisions on excise duty are usually a matter for the spring Budget – and a reduction to the 77% duty burden on Scotch would be welcome at any time – it is possible that Philip Hammond may wish to introduce himself to the country with another tax cut – a reduction in VAT. Watch out for that.

The second reason this will be one of the most analysed Autumn Statements is, of course, Brexit. During a period of economic uncertainty, the Chancellor should be looking to support strategically important manufacturers and exporters, like Scotch. He will want to boost confidence through an infrastructure stimulus. This could include special incentives to catalyse much needed house construction across the UK and fast-tracking of money for roads and rail. Deficit reduction is not the overriding principle of this new Government, so expect the Autumn Statement, in its current incarnation, to go out with a bang.

 

Graeme Littlejohn was previously head of office for Danny Alexander when he was an MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

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