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Drawing a careful economic picture

There is, as yet, no Mrs Brown to pose with the bachelor Chancellor on the steps of No 11 for the pre-Budget photocall &#45 but prudence was much in evidence.


Dealt one of the best economic hands of any Chancellor in living memory, Mr Brown was determined not to give the slightest hint of enjoying the experience.


Instead, we had a rollcall of &#34discipline&#34, &#34work ethic&#34, &#34civic society&#34 and (repeatedly) &#34hard-working families&#34.


Mr Brown was not only setting out his tax plans but also drawing a careful economic picture, making it clear that he is not about to blow his Iron Chancellor stance in a second term.


The proposal to raise the Isa limit at least for next year was top news. Let&#39s hope that it becomes a permanent feature of the Isa landscape.


But I was disappointed there were no proposals to abolish stamp duty on share dealing.


One of Mr Brown&#39s most cautious but most interesting passages came in the context of his announcement of a possible &#34pensioner credit&#34 &#45 the possibility of an integrated approach to pensioners&#39 total income, taking account of, but by implication not penalising too heavily, &#34modest savings&#34.


It would be very good news if this review was to extend more widely. There are important issues for pensioners, notably in the area of the timing of the purchase of annuities, where we need to liberalise the present rules.

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