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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 18:10 GMT
'Quick fix will not work' - Portillo
Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo
Portillo: "People will not forget what the chancellor has done".
Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo has dismissed Gordon Brown's pre-Budget statement as a 'quick fix' designed to appease angry pensioners and fuel protesters.

But he said people would never forget that it was the chancellor who had caused people's anger in the first place.


This is a chancellor in full retreat, buffeted about by public opinion

Michael Portillo

Referring to the government's 16bn budget surplus, Mr Portillo asked: "Whose surplus is it anyway? It is the people's surplus.

"It has arisen because the people of this country have been over-taxed."

'Refusing to apologise'

In a highly-charged response, Mr Portillo told the House of Commons that Mr Brown was "the chancellor who refused to say sorry".

He said the pre-Budget statement flew in the face of Mr Brown's previously stated commitment to long-term economic solutions.


Today he has merely returned a little of the people's surplus, which he will claw back if he wins the next election

Michael Portillo

"This is not the statement this chancellor expected to make. This statement was all about short-term tactics and quick fixes."

Referring to Mr Brown's previous position on fuel tax cuts - that they could only be made at the expense of cuts in public services - Mr Portillo asked: "Could he tell us which schools and hospitals he has had to close?"

Pensioners

Mr Portillo welcomed the increase in income for pensioners.

But he repeated the Tories' pledge to drop the winter fuel allowance and free TV licence for the over 75s in favour of a larger across the board increase in pensions.

Under the Conservatives, Mr Portillo, said, a single pensioner would receive an extra 9.50, compared to the 5 rise introduced by Mr Brown.

"Gimmicky tax changes"

On tax changes, Mr Portillo accused Mr Brown of "microeconomic" fiddling, and producing "gimmicky" policies which ordinary people would not be able to understand.

"I don't believe people are going to be grateful to the chancellor for what he has done today," he said.

"People are going to remember that he was the chancellor who caused all of these problems."

Fuel tax

"This is is the chancellor who has over-taxed petrol," Mr Portillo said.

"Today he has merely returned a little of the people's surplus, which he will claw back if he wins the next election."

He added: "When the chancellor stood up today, Britain had the most expensive petrol in Europe, when he sat down Britain still had the most expensive petrol in Europe.

"This is a chancellor in full retreat, buffeted about by public opinion, who came to the House today, but could not say he was sorry."

Liberal Democrat response

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Matthew Taylor accused Mr Brown of caving in to pressure on fuel and pensions.

"The Iron Chancellor has buckled in the face of protests from pensioners and Liberal Democrats."

He added: "For all that, the chancellor has reduced even more pensioners to having to go through a means test."

Lib Dem shadow chancellor Matthew Taylor
Lib Dem's Matthew Taylor accuses Labour of stealing its ideas
He said the chancellor had adopted Liberal Democrat policy on fuel and pensions "lock, stock and barrel."

"The real hat the Chancellor is wearing today is the hat of the of the chairman of Labour's general election committee," Mr Taylor added.

Former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke warned Mr Brown not to base huge increases in public spending on treasury revenue forecasts "which can rapidly turn overnight."

Mr Brown should turn his sights beyond winning the next election, he added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo
"It's spin and insincerity"
Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, Matthew Taylor
"He hasn't done that much for pensioners"

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
30 Oct 00 | UK Politics
30 Oct 00 | UK Politics
18 Sep 00 | Liberal Democrats
08 Nov 00 | Pre budget report
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