Philip Hammond, the new Chancellor, started his Autumn Statement by suggesting he wouldn’t be very good at “pulling rabbits out of a hat”. He was too modest.
At the end of his speech, Hammond announced: “This is my first Autumn Statement as Chancellor. After careful consideration, and detailed discussion with the Prime Minister, I have decided that it will also be my last.”
Before anyone cheered his resignation, he elaborated. “I am abolishing the Autumn Statement,” he told a surprised House. “No other major economy makes hundreds of tax changes twice a year and neither should we. So the spring Budget in a few months will be the final spring Budget..”
From autumn 2017, there will be an Autumn Budget, which announces changes ahead of the new tax year, and from 2018 a Spring statement with an update on growth figures. Hammond argued this would put the UK in line with other major economies and the recommendations of financial watchdogs, and allow more parliamentary scrutiny.
But Hammond made it clear he was no fan of political theatre. “I will not make significant changes twice a year just for the sake of it,” he said, just after making one of the most significant change of all.