Chancellor Alistair Darling has confirmed the date for the Budget as Wednesday 24 March, and the Prime Minister says investing in infrastructure will form a significant plank of its content.
The general election, widely thought to be on 6 May, is widely expected to be announced shortly after the Budget.
The Budget would be held: “Within two weeks,” said Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The Chancellor Alistair Darling later confirmed the 24 March date in a written statement to Parliament.
The Budget will contain information about Infrastructure UK (IUK), the Treasury body tasked with planning for infrastructure growth into the next 50 years.
Speaking at Canary Wharf in London, Brown said reform of the planning system was crucial to kick-starting economic recovery and new energy infrastructure and high speed rail would be built.
“The budget will focus on protecting and advancing the recovery - on how we protect our children’s and young people’s economic futures by ensuring that Britain can succeed in the new industries and new jobs of the future global economy.
“In the last three years we had a choice to make: whether to leave the status quo as it was with long planning delays and uncertainties for investors, or taking on our opponents, to build for the future and create a new more flexible faster planning environment with a new planning commission.
“Our choice is clear and we have already set out within the national planning framework for infrastructure plans for ports and for energy.
“In these last three years we had a choice to make - to do nothing about our overcrowded airports and lose business to Britain or to build for the future and establish, as we did, an airports policy for the future which keeps Britain at the centre of the global economy,” he said.
Brown admitted that the past two years had seen the: “greatest economic crisis since the war”, and “It became a global financial crisis so profound that it raised fundamental questions not just about established economic orthodoxies, but about the whole balance between the state, markets and the institutions that regulate and govern them.
“With hindsight it is now clear just how close the world economy came to complete meltdown,” he said.
In the space of just over six months, the equivalent of nearly four years of economic growth vanished as global trade plunged by 40%. And in 18 months world stock markets fell by almost 50%
Prime Minister Grodon Brown
Brown admitted that the recovery was fragile. “Although the economy is now growing, recovery is still in its early stages - and remains very fragile. There will be many months ahead of conflicting statistics, false hopes and mixed signals.”
He painted a picture of a society moving to replace its infrastructure based on solid research and innovation. “This belief in Britain’s future is why we will propose in the budget new frameworks to stimulate nuclear and clean energy generation and why we are investing more to become a world leader in a three-trillion pound market for low-carbon environmental goods and services — which offers us the prospects of up to 400,000 new jobs by 2015.
“And this belief in Britain’s future is why we will later this week set out proposals for investing in high speed rail. For this is the great transport investment project of the first half of this century.
“It is a symbol both of our ambitions for Britain and of the low carbon economic growth and prosperity we must deliver if we are to give our children’s generation the best possible chance of prospering in the global economy,” he said.