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Budget 2021 live: Sunak says he will use ‘full measure of our fiscal firepower’ to protect jobs

Good morning. Today Rishi Sunak will deliver his second budget. His first was on Wednesday 11 March 2020 and, although its £30bn spending package sounded significant, within a week it was effectively all in tatters as the first move towards national lockdown started and the Treasury started work on bail-out measures that dwarfed anything in the budget red book.

So today will be the first proper Covid budget. And, in a statement released last night, Sunak summed up his message like this:

We’re using the full measure of our fiscal firepower to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people.

The statement coincided with a Treasury briefing saying that the furlough scheme would be extended. This is itself was not particularly surprising – for months at PMQs, when asked about this, Boris Johnson has been saying the government will continue to support the British people, and in recent days the Treasury has been dropping ever more blatant hints about furlough continuing beyond April – but the decision to stretch it out until the end of September was a surprise. My colleague Larry Elliott and Jessica Elgot have the story.

But with that announcement now out, attention will now be focusing on the “surprise” that Sunak will be saving up for the speech. Perhaps a windfall tax? (That was the one topic on which Sunak completely clammed up in an interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday in which he was otherwise happy to talk generally about what he was planning.) There will be something, because so many of the other measures have already been formally announced, or trailed so widely and authoritatively that they might just as well have been press released. My colleague Richard Partington has a guide to the main items we can expect.

Today this blog will be focused entirely on the budget, the build-up to it, the announcement, reaction and analysis. My colleague Graeme Wearden, who normally writes the business live blog, will be contributing.

For non-budget coronavirus news, do read our global live blog. And if you are interested in Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the Scottish parliamentary committee investigating her government’s response to the Alex Salmond harassment complaints, we have a separate live blog for that too.

Here is the timetable for the day.

8.30am: Boris Johnson chairs a pre-budget cabinet.

12pm: Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQS.

12.30pm: Rishi Sunak delivers the budget.

3pm: Richard Hughes, chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility, holds a briefing about the OBR budget forecasts.

5pm: Sunak holds a press conference at No 10.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Rishi Sunak talking to people who have had government support during the Covid crisis, ahead of today’s budget. He’s holding a copy of the budget red book.

Photograph: Universal News And Sport (Scotland)/HM Treasury/UNPIXS (EUROPE)

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