Green budget aims to make us pay

DRINKERS, smokers, and shoppers were on the receiving end of the Chancellor's first budget today.And drivers of gas-guzzling vehicles were also in the firing line as Alastair Darling used his first budget to try to turn Britain greener and more healthy.

DRINKERS, smokers, and shoppers were on the receiving end of the Chancellor's first budget today.

And drivers of gas-guzzling vehicles were also in the firing line as Alastair Darling used his first budget to try to turn Britain greener and more healthy.

The chancellor also used his speech to indicate the government's support for the expansion of Stansted Airport - alongside Heathrow - but said new measures to tax flights would be brought in.

A charge is to be introduced next year on plastic bags given away by supermarkets. The money that is raised will be given to Green charities to boost their work.

Mr Darling said excise duty on alcohol would go up by six per cent above the current inflation rate - putting 4p on a pint of beer, 3p on a pint of cider, and 55p on a bottle of spirits.

Duty will go up by two pc above the inflation rate for the next four years as the government tries to clamp down on binge drinking.

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The cost of smoking is also set to increase with a packet of 20 cigarettes going up by 11p and a packet of five cigars increasing by 4p.

He has postponed the planned 2p rise in fuel duty until October, and confirmed the changes to income tax announced by Gordon Brown last year.

The basic rate of income tax will fall by 2p to 20p but the 10p starting rate will be abolished.

Road tax will be changed from 2010 with new bands, a new first-year rate free for low-emission cars - but an increased rate for new large vehicles which damage the atmosphere.

The Government will spend an extra £200m to improve GCSE grades, including a five-year £30m project with the private sector to improve science teaching.

He announced changes to income support and council tax benefit to make working families better off than those on benefit, worth around £17 a week.

Child benefit will rise from £11 a week for the first child to £20 from April 2009, and child tax credit will rise by £50 a year.

Housing rules would be changed to allow key workers like teachers and nurses to have easier access to shared equity schemes, and delaying stamp duty payments until those on the schemes own 80pc of their property.

He said he would promote long-term fixed rate mortgages over 10 to 25 year terms.

Mr Darling announced new plans to support low-income families on pre-payment energy meters, and called for energy companies to invest three times the current £50m on “social tariffs” threatening legislation if necessary.

On savings he confirmed plans to increase the individual savings account annual limits to £7,200 for Maxi ISAs and £3,600 for Mini ISAs from April this year. He said there would be new incentives for low income families to save.

He said over its lifetime the Government had doubled spending on overseas aid and made sustained improvements on defence spending, announcing £2bn spending on front line troops.

The Chancellor said the British economy had been growing for more than a decade, the longest sustained growth in the country's history.

He predicted the economy will continue to grow despite global economic problems.

Read the full speech