UK's Hammond pledges to spread wealth, but debt 'eye-wateringly' high

November 20, 2016 5:10 AM EST

Britain's Chancellor Philip Hammond arrives at Downing Street in central London, Britain October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Sunday he would aim to help struggling families and boost the country's long-term growth prospects when he announces Britain's first budget plans since the Brexit vote next week.

But Hammond also told BBC television that levels of public debt were "eye-wateringly" high and he would not be announcing a big increase in public spending.

"We've got to make sure that the prosperity that comes from seizing opportunities ahead is shared across the country and across the income distribution," he said, echoing promises by Prime Minister Theresa May to work for "just managing" families.

Hammond told the BBC that the government was keeping an open mind about its options for leaving the EU, downplaying suggestions from Britain's foreign minister Boris Johnson that the country should leave the EU's customs union.

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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