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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 November, 2003, 16:53 GMT
Howard attacks Labour 'paralysis'
Michael Howard
Mr Howard says Labour is 'running out of steam'
Tony Blair's government is suffering from "paralysis", Conservative leader Michael Howard has said.

Mr Howard told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost the problem was shown in the failure to reform public services.

The Tory leader said his party needed to show people their votes could tackle failures in public services.

Later, shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin said the Tories would make no pledges on taxation until they knew they were firmly backed.

Mr Howard said his party could win the next election and everything it did had to be devoted to that objective.

The universities are going to see very little, if any, of this money
Michael Howard

"The problem this government faces, one of the reasons with its huge majority it is now in such a state of paralysis, is because it has never really tackled the need to reform our public services," he said.

He branded the plans to charge students top-up fees "absurd".

Much of the funds raised would be spent on the new access regulator, the "arbitrary" target of getting 50% of young people into higher education and on bursaries to help poorer families pay university costs.

"The government are actually going to waste the money," he said. "The universities are going to see very little, if any, of this money."

Poll decisions

Mr Howard said people who were not necessarily interested in politics were increasingly frustrated with failures on schools, hospitals and law and order.

"We've got to convince them that there is a connection between these frustrations and these failures and their ability to do something about it when they vote at the next election," he said.

Asked if there were any plans to change the Tory torch symbol, Mr Howard said the party had not thought about the idea.

But he scotched any suggestion that there could be any change to the Conservative name.

Tax cuts

Mr Howard this week used his first party political broadcast to call for new measures to show people how much they were being taxed.

Shadow chancellor Mr Letwin told BBC One's Politics Show lower taxes made economic prosperity more likely.

But he argued: "We cannot make any kind of irresponsible pledge to any specific act. We have to only make pledges when we know that they are firmly backed."

Mr Letwin said public services had to come first and the more Chancellor Gordon Brown borrowed, the less scope there would be for tax cuts early in a new Tory term in office.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng said Mr Howard and Mr Letwin's talk of public service reform really meant cuts, charges and privatisation.

"The gaping holes in the Tory spending plans will inevitably mean painful cuts in public spending," he said.

Tories to push for tax holiday
27 Nov 03  |  Politics

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