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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 20:46 GMT
Tories attack 'broken promises'
Michael Howard
Michael Howard attacks broken promises
The Conservatives attacked Gordon Brown's economic stewardship as a history of "phoney pledges" on the NHS, business red tape and productivity.

In his response to the pre-Budget report, shadow chancellor Michael Howard had one repeated message: "Every year they make these promises, every year they break them."

Now the whole nation is on the waiting list - waiting in vain for this government to deliver on its promises

Michael Howard
Shadow chancellor

The Liberal Democrats have branded the report "complacent" and say it amounts to an admission of failure on the NHS.

Lib Dem treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor also accused the government of ignoring the problems an over-valued pound was causing the troubled manufacturing sector.

In the Commons, Mr Howard told MPs it was not just passengers, parents and patients who were on waiting lists under the Labour government.

"Now the whole nation is on the waiting list - waiting in vain for this government to deliver on its promises," he said to the cheers to Tory backbenchers.

The shadow chancellor said there were serious concerns about the UK economy before the 11 September atrocities and those had not been lifted by Mr Brown's words.

'Serious concerns'

How government spending was to be sustained when it was outstripping overall economic growth was still a major worry, he argued.

And despite Mr Brown's hyperbole over investment, services like healthcare and transport had got worse.
A tax form
Taxes have added to business burdens, say opposition parties

Mr Howard said the government could no longer hide behind accusations that the Tory years were to blame for current troubles.

"It is now Labour's health services policies that are failing and failing badly."

With the Tories looking abroad for better ways of funding healthcare, Mr Brown had himself made a pre-emptive attack.

He stressed the new independent Treasury review said a publicly funded NHS was "best for Britain".

Mr Howard countered that offensive, saying the review's terms of reference meant the government got the answer it wanted.

Moving away from public services, Mr Howard welcomed measures to help business and promised to look at the detail of the pre-Budget measures.

Competitiveness fall

But the 10bn-a-year burden of taxes and red tape imposed by Mr Brown had already hit UK competitiveness, he said.

Productivity and growth were two final fronts in Mr Howard's offensive as he belittled the chancellor's claims on the UK's recent record.

Matthew Taylor, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman
Taylor: Manufacturing worries ignored

Mr Howard welcomed the extra help for pensioners but said Labour taxes had "cruelly hit" tomorrow's pensioners.

He also used his response to tease the chancellor over his reported rift with Tony Blair.

Starting his speech with warm words, the Conservative MP continued: "Praise from his political enemies is nothing new to him - only last week the prime minister let it be known he thought he was probably the best chancellor in the world."

'Manufacturing ignored'

For the Lib Dems, Matthew Taylor dubbed the report "a complacent statement from an extraordinarily complacent chancellor".

"In the face of British manufacturing collapse, the NHS in crisis and pensioners in poverty, we get tax fiddles and spin on spending figures," he said.

Mr Brown's plans for pensioners extended the "humiliating" means tests that were already deterring 500,000 pensioners from claming their full benefits, said Mr Taylor.

Mr Taylor also derided new help for the NHS as "an admission of failure".

He said the Treasury's review on healthcare funding showed his party were right and Mr Brown had to accept the tax burden needed to rise.

"Throwing money now will not provide the extra doctors and nurses that Labour failed to train in 1997," he added.

National concerns

The Scottish National Party's leader at Westminster, Alex Salmond, said the report had more to do with Middle England than problems in Scotland.

Mr Salmond continued: "Stripped of the spin, all of Gordon Brown's Budgets and pre-Budget statements have been exposed as a fraud, and this one is no different."

A similar complaint was voiced in Wales by Plaid Cymru leader Elfyn Llwyd, who said Mr Brown had only tinkered with "smoke and mirrors".

The report offered very little to help the collapsing rural economy in Wales, as well as its shrinking manufacturing sector, he said.

From Northern Ireland there was a warm welcome from First Minister David Trimble and his deputy, Mark Durkan.

The Ulster Unionist and SDLP leaders said the announcements would help improve public services and give pensioners a better deal.

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Bercow
"The Chancellor has been piling on burdens on business for the last four and a half years"
The government's pre-Budget report will be on 27 Novewmber






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27 Nov 01 | Business
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