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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 14:47 GMT
Tories attack tax and spend Brown
Michael Howard
Mr Howard attacked Labour's economic record
Tory leader Michael Howard has attacked Gordon Brown as a "borrow now pay later" chancellor.

He said that none of the chancellor's "blustering" distracted from New Labour increasing taxes.

If Mr Brown had his way taxpayers would have to pay for his management of the economy in a third term of Labour tax rises, said Mr Howard.

He criticised the annual cost of government under Labour and said there was a "black hole" in spending plans.

Credit card?

Mr Howard said: "This is a credit card Budget from the credit card chancellor - a borrow now tax later Budget from the borrow now tax later chancellor."

He said the fact was that public borrowing was forecast to reach 37.5bn, adding that "the country will pay for it later in Labour's third term tax rises".

And he asked why the chancellor had to borrow so much if everything was going as well as Mr Brown said.

The forecast for borrowing over five years was 30bn in 2001. By 2002 it had risen to 72bn.

Borrowing in a downturn?

Mr Howard said the chancellor was on course to borrow almost five times the amount he had forecast a the time of the last election.

"And this is at a time when you claim the economy is doing well - how much would you be borrowing if the economy went into a downturn?" he asked.

Mr Howard said he welcomed extra cash for tackling the threat of international terrorism.

He also welcomed news that Customs and Excise was to be merged with the Inland Revenue raising the prospect of savings.

And although he expressed support for increased cash for pensioners over-70, Mr Howard added: "What this chancellor gives, this chancellor takes away."

'Public sector chancellor'

Mr Howard said he was "particularly pleased" with the chancellor's announcement that "Britain won't be joining the euro" although he added that Mr Brown "didn't quite put it like that".

The Tory leader mocked Mr Brown for failing to adhere to the Maastricht criteria for joining the single currency.

"He's broken the rules and he hasn't even joined the club," he said to Tory laughter.

Mr Howard was particularly critical of public sector expenditure under New Labour.

The economy was growing thanks to a "public sector boom paid for by a public sector chancellor".

Andrew Marr reports
"The Chancellor believes he has created a popular public spending trap"

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