Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 22:37 UK

Darling 'assures' 10p tax rebels

Alistair Darling
Mr Darling is expected to unveil partial compensation to those worst hit

Alistair Darling has given Labour rebels a "categoric assurance" he will help people hit by the abolition of the 10p tax rate, the BBC has learned.

The chancellor held talks with former minister Frank Field and former whip Greg Pope to discuss compensation

Treasury sources said Mr Darling was "looking at all the options" and wanted to get any package "right".

Tory leader David Cameron urged the government "to do more to help those who will suffer" from the tax change.

The abolition of the lowest rate of income tax came into effect last month, alongside a reduction in the basic rate of income tax from 22p to 20p and increases in child benefit and tax credits.

'Top priority'

Former welfare reform minister Mr Field has warned that MPs are prepared to block the Budget unless details are given of how the 5.3 million people hit by the changes will be compensated.

The government has said it will outline a compensation package for pensioners aged 60 to 64 and low earners before this autumn's pre-Budget report.

It's going to be a tall order, but we're going to give it our best shot
David Cameron

After the chancellor's meeting with Mr Field and Mr Pope, a Treasury source said Mr Darling had given a "categoric assurance that he is intending to help as many people as possible; that he is looking at all the options; and that he wants to get it right".

It was added that Mr Darling had given gave Mr Field no assurances on any of the detail being considered in the compensation package.

Earlier, Mr Field told the BBC: "It's crucial that people who have lost out from the 10p don't feel deserted by us.

"I plead with the government to act today and give us a public statement on what I know they are committed to and working on in private."

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron said a vote for the Conservatives on 22 May in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election would send a message to Gordon Brown to "do more to help those who will suffer from the 10p tax rate".

'Crocodile tears'

"It was immoral to tax 5.3 million low-paid people in order to stand up and look like a tax-cutter in the House of Commons, to kind of buy the votes of Middle England," he added.

However, Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable accused Mr Cameron of crying "crocodile tears", claiming "the only tax cuts he has proposed are for millionaires".

Meanwhile, Labour ministers rallied round Mr Brown following the poor showing in last Thursday's local elections, topped off by Tory Boris Johnson seizing London's mayoralty from Ken Livingstone.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband branded talk of a leadership challenge "utter rubbish", while Justice Secretary Jack Straw and International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander insisted Mr Brown's position was secure.

But ex-home secretary Charles Clarke said that "last Thursday's Conservative success was the direct result of Labour failure" and amounted to "a slap in the face" from the electorate, who "have the right to expect better".

Influential backbencher Jon Cruddas warned: "Our people are abandoning us, we're sinking fast, and no amount of hand-wringing and promises of 'listening and learning' from election night will change that... It's not too late to change - but choose change we must."

Mr Brown claimed Labour would recover from its worst local election results in more than 40 years and told the BBC he took the blame.

However, he faces the threat of further damage if a big rebellion emerges over plans to extend the time suspects can be held without charge to 42 days.

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  Councillors Councils
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