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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK

UK Politics

Maude: No red tape on Net

Francis Maude: "We will keep the pound - that's guaranteed"

Shadow chancellor Francis Maude has promised to cut red tape out of UK Government to put Britain at the front of the Internet economy.

Addressing the Tory conference with both William Hague and Baroness Thatcher watching from the platform, he also pledged to keep the pound and lower taxes.

The Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude
Looking at the former prime minister to his right, he said: "After what that great lady did, Britain has a telecommunications and technology industry that is the envy of the world."

But he said the Labour government and European Union threatened to undermine the e-commerce revolution through layers of bureaucracy.

"The Internet has become the most powerful business tool of the decade despite them, not because of them," he said.

[ image: Thatcher and Hague led a standing ovation for the shadow chancellor]
Thatcher and Hague led a standing ovation for the shadow chancellor
Net entrepreneurs often had no ties to any particular country, the shadow chancellor pointed out.

"If they don't like the business climate in one place they can simply go somewhere else and they will."

He insisted a Tory government would reform Whitehall regulation to allow e-commerce to flourish.

"For Conservatives, more regulation is not the answer because Conservatives trust people to do the right thing. We don't think every businessman is a rogue.

"For the first time business will learn that the red tape machine is coming under control."

Tax and sterling guarantees

The other key sections of Mr Maude's speech were his "guarantees" on taxes and his attack on Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Shadow Chancellor Francis Maude talks to BBC Radio
The shadow chancellor repeated the assurance from Mr Hague earlier this week that tax as a proportion of national income would fall under the Conservatives.

He gave few details of how this would happen or how the party could stick to its pledge of the economy plunged into recession.

But he sought to contrast the "transparency" of the promise with a government that "says one thing and does another".

"The Conservative government will cut taxes," he said. Today we give this tax guarantee: at the end of the next Conservative government the state will take a smaller share of the nation's income in taxes than at the beginning.

"Yes, the next Conservative government will cut the burden of tax on the British people and we will make it impossible for future governments to raise taxes by stealth.

"Our guarantee on tax is clear. For the very first time there will be no escape clauses, no fudging, no hiding behind the fine print."

On the European single currency, he said the current Conservative Party was in-step with the country.

"The British people want to keep the pound," he said.

"If Labour didn't know that before William Hague's great victory in the European election they should certainly know it now.

"They've already spend hundreds of millions of pounds on their national handover plan and all this before a single vote has been cast in a referendum.

"In opposition Mr Blair said he loved the pound. Now he's acting to scrap it. Doing one thing and saying another.

"By the next election they will know there is one party that will keep the pound and that's our sterling guarantee."

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