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Inflation is forecast to halve in a matter of months and drop below the target rate of 2%, Jeremy Hunt confirmed in his budget statement today (The Times £).

The UK government announced a new tax on vapes during the Budget in an effort to discourage non-smokers from taking up the habit, as part of twin tax hikes on tobacco products that will generate more than £600mn in extra revenue for the Treasury (Financial Times £).

A hefty hike in business rates will go ahead after pleas for help from hospitality and the High Street fell on deaf ears (Mail).

The chancellor has been accused of producing a “cut and paste” budget that fails to provide the tax changes needed to protect pubs and restaurants (The Guardian).

Sky News reports that Katie Bickerstaffe is to leave M&S this year, handing over the sole reins to Stuart Machin.

Bickerstaffe was appointed co-chief executive two years ago and has helped oversee a major turnaround in the High Street giant’s fortunes (Mail).

Bickerstaffe is leaving to focus on a portfolio career and has lined up a non-executive director position at Kingfisher (The Times £).

Marks & Spencer is to sell one of its bestselling womenswear brands in more of its stores as it continues to expand tie-ups with third-party brands (The Times £).

Zuber Issa is in talks to buy his older brother and business partner Mohsin out of parts of their petrol station empire, in the latest move to separate their fortunes (The Times £). EG Group told investors it “continued to have active discussions” with Zuber about divesting some assets in the UK and Ireland, with plans to strike a deal “in the near term”.

Premier Foods is the latest listed company to disclose a dramatic improvement in the health of its traditional pension scheme, reporting that promised payments of £66m into it would no longer be necessary (The Times £).

Premier Foods shares rose sharply on Wednesday after the Angel Delight owner revealed an agreement to suspend its pension deficit payments from next month (Mail).

The John Lewis Partnership is increasing its minimum rates of staff pay by 10% from the beginning of April (Mail).

The department store owner said it was raising the minimum pay for shop floor workers by around 10% to £11.55 an hour across the UK and £12.89 within London (Telegraph £).

Boots has ordered thousands of staff to return to the office five days a week as bosses prepare the retailer for a potential stock market float (Telegraph £).

DS Smith has admitted that trading remains tough as it awaits the deadline on Thursday for rival group Mondi to formally put forward a £10.5bn merger proposal (The Times £).

A UK campaign group has accused one of China’s biggest fishing companies of environmental and labour abuses, raising questions for major seafood distributors in Japan and Taiwan that have purchased its catches (Financial Times £).

Some fruit and vegetable growers in Australis have not received price increases from the major supermarkets in 15 years, and farmers are being pressured to fund recent price promotions, a Senate inquiry has heard (The Guardian).