Philip Hammond blasted over shock plans to scrap 1p and 2p coins

Unveiling his Spring Statement, the Chancellor resurrected proposals to abolish the “obsolete” copper change.

He also questioned the future of the £50 note amid claims it was used almost exclusively by criminals.

The plans were among a series of “listening exercises” announced after Mr Hammond gave an upbeat 26-minute statement to Commons.

He hailed a “turning point” for the economy, with debt due to fall as a share of national income for the first time in over a decade.

And he paved the way for extra spending on the NHS and Armed Forces in his main Budget, which he has switched to the Autumn.

But Labour MP Wes Streeting blasted: “After eight years of the Tories, working people have fewer pounds in their pocket.

“That’s not enough for this penny pincher Chancellor — he wants to take away people’s one and two pennies too.”

He went on: “He should leave well alone and focus on getting the economy back on track.”

And Lib Dem boss Sir Vince Cable warned of the impact on arcades.

Last year it emerged that ex-Chancellor George Osborne had come within weeks of scrapping pennies in 2015 but was blocked by then-PM David Cameron.

Downing Street feared the “symbolism” of the Tories doing away with coins would be a vote loser after warnings from charities that their donations would suffer.

More than 500 million 1p and 2p coins have to be produced every year as so many are lost down sofas or put in saving jars.

And the Treasury now say shops have already started to “round” the price of products to avoid giving change in anything below 5p coins.

A spokesman insisted that no decision had been taken and they were only asking for evidence “about the future of cash”.

But Theresa May distanced herself, saying: “I am told that this is a call for evidence to allow the Government to better understand the role of cash and digital payments in the economy.”

VAT appeal on red tape

BUSINESS leaders and MPs last night urged the Chancellor to rule out slapping small firms with an avalanche of red tape after he launched a probe that could cut the VAT threshold.

Philip Hammond said the consultation would look at how to stop firms “bunching” sales just below the £85,000 sales threshold at which they must start charging VAT.

Coff up levy

COFFEE cups, takeaway boxes and cigarette filters could be taxed as part of a green revolution.

The Treasury published proposals to slap a new charge on single use plastics, reviving the possibility of a 25p latte levy.

The Government separately announced plans to give White Van Man a grant of up to £8,000 to switch to electric vehicles.

New proposals will also be published on clamping down on gas oil in construction equipment.

The Chancellor said: “This Government is determined our generation leaves the natural environment in a better state than we found it.”

Wages in for boost

LONG-suffering Brits will finally see a boost to pay packets from April as inflation begins to fall, the Chancellor said.

He said “real wage growth”, which strips out the cost of living, is expected to turn positive in the spring and “in–crease steadily thereafter”.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said average earnings should rise by 2.7 per cent in 2018 — 0.4 per cent above what it forecast in November.

But it said in real terms they will still be below their 2008 levels in 2023, meaning 15 years of sluggish wage growth

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