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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 16:32 GMT
Budget date set for April
Gordon Brown with Budget box
This year's Budget will be delivered on 17 April, Chancellor Gordon Brown has told MPs.

The annual event, at which the government's taxation and broader economic predictions are unveiled, is normally held in March.

Mr Brown announced the date in a Commons written statement as he returned to work at the Treasury on Monday for the first time since the death of his baby daughter Jennifer Jane three weeks ago.

That time off work is thought to be part of the reason for the later Budget date, but the complexities faced in this year's announcement are also likely to be a major factor.

Focus on tax

The news follows hints that taxation might have to rise to fund spending on public services like hospitals, schools and the railways.

The Budget also comes ahead of this summer's Comprehensive Spending Review, which sets out three-year spending plans.

Michael Howard
Michael Howard has attacked the tax rise hints
Details of those three-year plans are not due to be unveiled until July but the Budget is expected to outline the broad spending targets.

Treasury chief secretary Andrew Smith last week warned the spending review could be the Labour government's toughest yet.

He said there would be no increases in public spending without evidence of better performance and nor would "hard-won" economic stability be put at risk.

Labour has pledged not to increase the basic or upper rates of income tax as it strives to fund higher spending on public services and Mr Smith said the government would stick by that promise.

NHS pledge

But Mr Smith continued: "As we said at the time of the pre-Budget review, we haven't ruled out the possibility of raising tax if that is what it takes to get the British public the NHS which they deserve and want, but we do so on the basis of caution and prudence.

"We are not by instinct a high-tax party. We appreciate the benefits of a low-tax environment for business and individual success."

The Conservatives have attacked the idea of higher taxes, saying the government is already underspending its existing budget by billions of pounds.

Shadow chancellor Michael Howard said: "The government should be concentrating on effective delivery, and spending the money it is already taking from the British people in taxes, rather than thinking about raising taxes yet again."

See also:

28 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Gordon Brown returns to work
27 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Pre-Budget report: At-a-glance
22 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Higher tax warning
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Brown rules out income tax rise
07 Mar 01 | Budget 2001
Budget 2001: At-a-glance
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