George Osborne to defend his 'sugar tax budget'

The Chancellor will defend the Budget amid complaints he announced a tax on fizzy drinks to "sugar the pill" of seeking to get his fiscal plans back on track through deeper cuts and a squeeze on disability benefit.

George Osborne will take to the airwaves to be grilled about his latest fiscal blueprint, made one of his most difficult by sharply reduced growth forecasts he blamed on a "dangerous cocktail" of risks from the global economy.Upgraded borrowing forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility forced him to reduce spending by another £3.5 billion to keep alive his hope of hitting his target of getting the nation's books into surplus by 2019.

But the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank said that overall the Budget delivered "measures that will increase tax revenues and cut spending".

The most eye-catching measure was a levy on soft drinks firms which from 2018 will see companies charged according to the level of sugar in their products. The £520 million raised will be used to help support primary school sport.

The levy was welcomed by health campaigners including TV chef Jamie Oliver - who tweeted the message "We did it!" to supporters - but sent shares in soft drinks companies tumbling on the stock exchange.

The OBR said signs of a pick-up in productivity growth had turned out to be a "false dawn", as it downgraded its growth estimates for this year from 2.4% to 2% and next year from 2.4% to 2.2%.

Debt is expected to be 82.6% of GDP in 2016/17 rather than 81.7% and the deficit is set to fall next year to 2.9% rather than 2.5%.