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Osborne: Business leaders' message 'couldn't be clearer'

George Osborne has said that the message from big business leaders 'couldn;t be clearer' after more than 100 business leaders declared their support for a Conservative-led government.

This is an unprecedented intervention in a British election...Their message couldn't be clearer. We have a Conservative economic plan that is working and creating jobs and if we change course those jobs will be threatened and the recovery will be put at risk.

– George Osborne

Osborne: Business leaders' intervention 'unprecedented'

Chancellor George Osborne has hailed an "unprecedented" intervention from business leaders praising the Tories' economic plans.

Chancellor George Osborne. Credit: PA Wire

"An intervention on this scale and with this clarity from Britain's business leaders is unprecedented in any recent general election," Mr Osborne said.

"Over 100 business leaders, heading up some of our largest companies and most famous brands, and employing over half a million people, have spoken out.

"And the warning from Britain's business leaders couldn't be clearer: a change of course will threaten jobs, deter investment, send a negative signal about our country and put the recovery at risk."

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Osborne rules out income tax or national insurance rise

The Conservatives will not raise income tax or national insurance if they gain power again in May, Chancellor George Osborne has said.

Chancellor George Osborne said the Tories will not raise income tax or national insurance contributions. Credit: PA Wire

The pledge comes a week after David Cameron ruled out a rise in VAT at the final Prime Minister's Questions before the general election.

Mr Osborne told The Sun: "You have a very clear commitment from us that we are not going to increase VAT, national insurance or income tax. That is our commitment to working people, that we are there to help them."

In a joint interview by Mr Osborne and David Cameron, the Prime Minister also confirmed that he wanted to keep Osborne as Chancellor if the Tories return to Number 10.

Osborne buoyed by stronger economic figures

The UK economy grew by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, revised up from a previous estimate of 0.5%, official figures released today show.

The economy grew by 2.8% during 2014, up 0.2% from a previous estimate, the Office for National Statistics said.

The economy grew by 2.8% during 2014, ONS figures show. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

GDP was previously estimated to have increased by 2.6% in 2014.

The Chancellor hailed the ONS figures as a "hat trick of good news".

Tories to reveal £12bn in welfare cuts after the election

The Conservative party will not publish details of their planned welfare cuts until after the General Election, Chancellor George Osborne has said.

Mr Osborne said that they would set out how they intend to achieve the planned £12 billion in savings from the welfare budget if they are returned to power after the General Election.

George Osborne Credit: Joel Goodman/PA Wire

"We will set out our plans as part of a spending review when you can make these balanced judgments," he told Channel 4 News. "We have said in the spending review in the summer."

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith came under fire at the weekend after he suggested that it was not "relevant" to explain where the cuts would fall if the Conservatives regained power.

However, Mr Osborne insisted they had shown from their record in the last parliament that they had would protect the most vulnerable claimants

UK raises a further £500 million from Lloyds shares sale

The Government has raised a further £500 million from the sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group, George Osborne has announced.

The Chancellor tweeted:

The size of the stake owned by British taxpayers in Lloyds has fallen below 22%, according to a regulatory filing.

When Lloyds was rescued in 2009 the Government took a 40% percent stake.

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IFS says the Chancellor needs to explain his budget

A respected think tank has urged George Osborne to explain where the big cuts, pencilled in in yesterday's Budget will fall. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that should be before the election. The Chancellor merely insisted future cuts would be no worse than those already achieved. Labour claimed he could only balance the books by increasing VAT or cutting NHS spending. An attempt by the Lib Dems to deliver an "alternative budget" ended in farce.

ITV News political correspondent Emily Morgan reports:

Cameron: Others would take Britain 'back to square one'

The Prime Minister has hit out at the other parties saying they would take Britain "back to square one" - as he arrived in Brussels for a European Union summit.

Cameron: Others would take Britain 'back to square one. Credit: PA

David Cameron said: "When I first came here as Prime Minister five years ago, Britain and Greece were virtually in the same boat. We had similar-sized budget deficits.

"The reason we are in a different position is we took long-term difficult decisions and we had all of the hard work and effort of the British people. I am determined we do not go backwards.

"Listening to other parties' reactions to yesterday's excellent Budget shows they want to borrow, spend and tax more. I say let us build on the success that we've had and not go back to square one."

Treasury announce 'tough' new tax evasion laws

The Treasury has outlined plans to strengthen the law on tax evasion following George Osborne's Budget yesterday.

Danny Alexander making his statement to the Commons today. Credit: ITV News

Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said a new strict liability criminal offence would be introduced so offshore tax evaders "could no longer plead ignorance" in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

"Strict liability will bring an end to the defence of, 'I knew nothing - it was my accountant my Lord,'" Alexander told the Commons.

He said the Government would also enforce a new offence of corporate failure to prevent tax evasion, so no organisation is allowed "to get away with facilitating or abetting others to evade tax".

Anyone who helps tax evaders will also be handed new civil penalties, Mr Alexander announced, meaning those found guilty will be forced to pay fines that matches the sum of the tax dodged.

During his speech in the Commons, Mr Alexander was met with angry heckling from Labour MPs who accused him of abusing his ministerial office by Labour to set out the Liberal Democrats' "alternative Budget".

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