12:07pm Osborne ends with the message: “Britain is moving again. Let’s keep going.” (Please re-elect us.)
12:04pm Employers’ National Insurance will be scrapped on employees aged under 21, Osborne says.
12:02pm Osborne announces that next year’s fuel duty rise will be cancelled, praising the campaigning work of Tory MP Robert Halfon on this issue. But he doesn’t deliver the cut that some predicted.
11:59pm Through gritted teeth, the socially liberal Osborne confirms that the government will introduce a marriage tax allowance from April 2015 and that its value will be increased in line with the personal allowance (which will rise to £10,000 next year).
11:58am He announces a £1,000 discount on business rates for all retailers valued at up to £50,000.
11:55am Osborne says business rates increases will be capped at 2% for all premises (rather than 3.4%).
11:53am Probably the biggest announcement from Osborne so far: the cap on student numbers will be abolished.
11:51am He announces that anyone aged 18-21 claiming welfare without “basic skills” will be required to undertake training or “lose their benefits”.
11:47am Osborne announces a “priority right to move” for social housing tenants who need to move for a job.
11:46am A striking admission: “if we want more people to own their own homes, we need to build more homes”.
11:42am He announces the well-trailed introduction of capital gains tax on foreign property owners. At present, while British citizens pay CGT at 18% or 28% when they sell a property that is not their main home, non-residents are exempt. But with foreign investors purchasing around 70% of all new builds in central London, Osborne, still burdened by a deficit forecast to be £111bn this year, has spied a revenue-raising opportunity.
11:41am Osborne has just used the stat often cited by Boris Johnson in defence of the super-rich: that they pay 30% of all income tax. That’s true, but what he doesn’t mention is that the 30% stat tells us less about what has happened to the tax system than it does about what has happened to the income system.
Over the period in question, the earnings of the rich have risen to previously unimaginable levels. As a recent OECD study showed, the share of income taken by the top 1% of UK earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005, while the top 0.1% took 5%. Quite simply, the rich are paying more because they’re earning more. Is this really cause for us to thank them? If 11 million low and middle earners receive the pay rise they have been denied since 2003, they’ll pay more tax too.
11:35am Osborne has announced three new steps to enshrine fiscal “responsibility”:
1. A new charter for budget responsibility committing the government to running a surplus. It will be put to a vote in parliament (a test for Labour).
2. A cap on total welfare spending (as previously announced in the Spending Review). Osborne confirms that it will exclude the state pension and cyclical benefits such as JobSeeker’s Allowance.
3. Finally, he announces a further £2bn cut in departmental budget and a £1bn cut in the contingency reserve.
11:28am He announces that the forecast deficit for this year has been revised down from £120bn to £111bn, but that’s still £41bn higher than expected in 2010.
Borrowing in 2014-15 is forecast to be £96bn, then £79bn in 2015-16, £51bn in 2016-17 and £23bn in 2017-18. That leaves him on track to halve the deficit (it was £159bn in 2009-10) by 2015-16, the same speed promised by Alistair Darling in 2010.
11:26am On borrowing, Osborne announces that the OBR expects the government to run a budget surplus by 2018-19.
11:23am Osborne boasts that employment is at a “record high” of 29.95m. That’s true, but only because the population has risen. The rate, at 71.8%, remains well below its pre-recession peak of 73.1%.
11:21am Here are the OBR’s revised growth forecasts: 1.4% (up from 0.6%), 2.4% ( up from 1.8%), 2.2%, 2.6%, 2.7%, 2.7%
11:20am Tory MPs cry “apologise” at Labour as Osborne reminds MPs that GDP fell by 7.2% during the recession.
11:19am Osborne tries to shoot Labour’s fox by saying he will help families with the “cost-of-living” where he can.
11:16am Osborne is up. He wastes no time in delivering his key political message: I have a “long-term” plan and “the biggest risk” comes from those who would “abandon” it. That’s Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in case it wasn’t clear.
11:11am While we wait for Osborne to begin, here’s 10 things to look out for today.