By Ray Fleming

GEORGE Osborne got a reasonably good press for his Budget. “Bad Hand, Well Played” was the verdict of The Times and it reflected the two main factors that determined the Chancellor's approach -- the first being the fiscal framework that he constructed with his first Budget last year and the following Comprehensive Spending Review, and the second the stubborn refusal thus far of the British economy to grow as it needs to, indeed rather to slip back somewhat.

The recovery of the private sector remains essential for the realisation of Mr Osborne's grand strategy structured for conclusion in 2015 and there were a number of useful ideas and proposals in his Budget to help this. But the only big announcement was reserved for car owners with the immediate cut by 1p in petrol tax and the freezing of the fuel duty escalator.

David Cameron said yesterday that these measures amounted to a “multi billion pound tax cut” -- a claim, which if true, raises the question of whether the money found for it might have been better spent in different ways than on a basically political gesture. Mr Osborne promised to “watch like a hawk” that there was no “funny business” by oil companies in response but then added, “I'm not in control of the world's oil prices, unfortunately.”