BUDGET 2000: Budget will bring stability, Treasury chief secretary tells Deloittes’ clients

While Brown was on Radio 4’s Today programme, Smith was on his way to the Grosvenor House hotel to attempt to persuade key decision-makers that the Budget would boost business – and for the long-term.

‘This Budget does offer stability,’ Smith told a mixed audience of finance directors, bankers and journalists at a Budget breakfast hosted by Deloitte & Touche.

‘This is not a giveway Budget,’ he insisted and added: ‘One key message of the Budget is that this is a government absolutely determined to put the legacy of boom and bust and the sort of thinking that fuels that behind it.’

To his credit Smith stayed to take questions. But there were few. Either attendees were still woozy from the 7:45am start after a late night ploughing through the red book or they were still confused by the chancellor’s pronouncements.

Sometimes, you could be forgiven for thinking, these appear designed to cloud rather than clear up issues.

Like the chancellor’s Budget statement itself, Smith’s was a speech littered with what are already or what will become key ministerial buzzwords over the coming months – think ‘help hard working families’, ‘prudence for a purpose’ and, when it comes to the euro, ‘prepare and decide’.

Perhaps more tellingly Smith admitted to twin motives within the Treasury. ‘This is a Budget of sensible economics and sesible politics,’ he said.

Whether companies and individual taxpayers agree that one is as valid as the other remains to be seen.

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