Cross-bench peer Lord Digby Jones has said Chancellor Philip Hammond has “a good economy” and that he could find more money for mental health, social care and policing if he wanted to.
Jones, the former Director of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “Theresa May used the words ‘austerity is at an end’, but what I think she was trying to lead towards was what the nation thinks of the economy, and [that] what the hard-left in opposition say all the time is not factually accurate.
“Pay rises are outstripping inflation, inflation is low, interest rates are very low, growth is good and unemployment is at a 40-year low.
“On that basis, he [Hammond] has got quite a good economy to look at and the deficit has come down enormously.”
Julia Hartley-Brewer said: “And he has found that extra £13 billion round the back of the sofa.”
Jones added: “I think he could find more. I really do, I think he could show some more large investment in mental health, he could show more large investment in social care.
“He could show more help in policing and prison issue because he has got the money.”
Mr Hammond is expected to announce the Government will spend an extra £2 billion a year for providing crisis services in England for people suffering with mental health problems.
'I bet he wishes he was doing this after March 2019'
However, Jones added that he imagines the Chancellor wishes he was doing the Budget after Brexit.
He said: “I think it is going to be positive. I can’t see any way in which it would be a negative or hard Budget.
“But, I bet he wishes he was doing this after March 2019 because what does he know, what do you know, what do I know about where the economy is actually going to be?
“I’m not sure he could move it because every year the democratically elected government has to go to Parliament and say, 'you have given us the power to raise taxes'.
“That is why we have a budget every year. Some made it twice a year, you could make it every day if you wish.
“But, you have to do it every year so that you give power of the people that you elect to raise taxes.”
'The imbalance on the high street'
The budget also could be an opportunity to tackle the problems on the high street, according to Jones.
He said: “I think he will do the following. He has got to do something about the imbalance on the high street.
“He has got to do something to stop the Amazons of this world effectively abusing the current business plan of this country where they pay very little business rates.”
He added: “They have all this packaging and don’t pay or contribute to it being taken away.
“And, there is your little shop on the high street struggling.”