23 November 2017

The problem for any Chancellor is that he has to try to match such a wide range of interests and expectations and, for Philip Hammond, that problem was exacerbated by the fact that he was not able to totally rely on his own side for support.

So how did he do and were there enough winners to offset the complaints from the losers?

When it came to the doubters on his own benches, at the beginning of his speech he threw them £3 billion "to ensure that the country is prepared for every possible outcome" of the Brexit negotiations.

For his business critics, his offers were varied and the responses were mixed.

For the CBI, Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn agreed that action on business rates, R&D tax credits, Brexit planning and an extension and increase of the National Productivity Investment Fund would all help firms to invest and grow.

She also welcomed plans to build a skills system that supports the fourth industrial revolution as did Seamus Nevin, Head of Policy Research at the Institute of Directors (IoD).

"On education and skills, it was a solid and sturdy performance which got the fundamentals right," he said.

However, overall, the IoD dismissed Mr Hammond's efforts as tepid and lacking the bold moves that business had hoped for.

One of those, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), would have been to cut fuel duty, rather than to freeze it, and it told the Chancellor that he had missed a golden opportunity to make the production and distribution of UK goods more competitive.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) was delighted with the backing promised for SME builders and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) breathed a sigh of relief when the Chancellor decided not to lower the VAT threshold.

It also welcomed the sensible approach to the IR35 problem and the decision to move towards the CPI-indexation of business rates bill.

Like several other bodies, it concluded that while the Chancellor could have done more, he had at least moved in the right direction.