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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Blair makes manifesto tax pledge
Tony Blair launches the Labour manifesto
Tony Blair said Labour's manifesto proposed wide ranging change
Tony Blair has urged voters to make Labour's changes last "for all time" as he launched their election manifesto.

His programme for a third term includes a pledge not to increase the basic or top rate of income tax, but says nothing about National Insurance.

After eight years in power, Mr Blair says he is fighting his last election.

Tory Michael Howard said if Labour got in again taxes would go up. The Lib Dems, due to launch their manifesto on Thursday, say the system is unfair.

Labour's 112-page manifesto is small enough to fit in a back pocket.

It contains more than five pages of pledges including a commitment not to extend VAT to food, children's clothes, books, newspapers or public transport fares.

'Undimmed'

Called Britain: Forward not back, the document stresses economic stability, health, education and tackling crime in its nine chapters.

KEY PLEDGES
No increase in basic or top rate income tax
Minimum wage to rise to 5.35 from October 2006
Increase home ownership by two million
Inflation target of 2%
No-one will have to wait more than 18 weeks to see a specialist from date of referral
Rebuild or refurbish every secondary school
Education or training for every 16 to 18-year-old
Publicly-owned Royal Mail fully restored to "good health"
Action to tackle guns and knives
Further Lords reform
Point system for immigrants

Mr Blair was joined on stage by the whole Cabinet at the launch in London, with Gordon Brown and some other ministers speaking in turn.

In his foreword, the Labour leader says: "Our ideals are undimmed: extend opportunity to all, demand responsibility from all, secure justice for all."

Mr Blair talked of a "social contract", where the government helps people, who in turn help themselves.

At the launch, he added: "I have said this is my last election. At the election following there will be a different leader.

"What this manifesto shows is that when, at that election, this party is under new leadership, it will continue to be the modern progressive New Labour Party of the past 10 years - one that the British people can support with confidence."

National Insurance

The manifesto promises to work for world action on HIV/Aids and a timetable for ending farming subsidies.

LABOUR MANIFESTO
Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

And it proposes a review of the powers of the House of the Lords, with the last hereditary peers removed and MPs given a free vote on whether to elect some peers.

Much attention fell on Labour's tax promises as National Insurance rose after the last election.

Asked later about National Insurance, Mr Brown said "no sensible chancellor" would make pledges "on every single tax".

The Conservatives say taxes will have to rise if Labour is re-elected as there is an 11bn "black hole" because Gordon Brown has spent and borrowed too much.

They claim that if National Insurance is increased to cover the "black hole" a couple on average earnings will be 1,000 worse off each year.

Health charges

Tory leader Mr Howard said it was a "more of the same manifesto" of empty promises and more stealth taxes and that voters had given up on Mr Blair because he had "lost the plot".

The Conservatives are also launching a cinema advertisement to encourage people to vote against Mr Blair's "smirking".

HAVE YOUR SAY
I'm sure income tax won't rise under Labour, just as I am sure that almost every other tax will
Dom Brady, Southampton

Lib Dem deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell said voters should judge Labour not on their words but on their actions on issues such as the Iraq war and student fees.

"When you look at Labour's record you should take this manifesto with more than a pinch of salt," he said.

Party leader Charles Kennedy meanwhile remains with his wife and newborn son - but is due back on the campaign trail early on Thursday when he will launch his platform for governing Britain.

In his absence, Sir Menzies highlighted their plans to provide free eye and dental checks for everybody and review how to make prescription charges fairer.

They also renewed their promise to provide free personal care for the elderly.



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