Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 15:40 UK

Tories 'best' to tackle poverty

George Osborne
George Osborne says the Tories are best placed to reduced inequalities

George Osborne has said that the Tories are best placed to tackle poverty and create a fair society.

The shadow chancellor also said Gordon Brown had burdened future generations by reckless borrowing.

He told the BBC that "simply chucking money at people" was not enough without tackling worklessness and improving educational chances.

Treasury minister Angela Eagle said the Tories were trying to avoid scrutiny about "unfunded and unfair policies".

There are 900,000 more people in severe poverty than in 1997, the shadow chancellor said in a speech to think tank Demos.

Autumn relaunch

He also accused the prime minister of treating future generations unfairly by leaving them with large debts to pay off.

In an article in the Guardian, he said he thought that issue would become "the new battle in British politics as the government mortgages our long-term future for the sake of its short-term survival".

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He also wrote that the modern Conservative Party was "now winning the argument that the best way to achieve progressive goals is through Conservative means".

His speech came ahead of the prime minister's expected autumn relaunch, which is likely to stress Labour's commitment to "fairness".

Earlier Mr Osborne told the BBC: "Simply redistributing money, simply chucking money at people, simply relying on tax credits has failed.

"Child poverty is rising in this country, despite the amount of money that is being spent on the tax credit system. "

'Scattergun attack'

He said the party would strengthen tax credits by tackling the "couples penalty" which he says disadvantages couples who live together - and improving administration of the system.

"There is absolutely no Conservative plan to in any way get rid of tax credits, indeed if anything we want to strengthen tax credits."

They would rather repeatedly tell us that we are broken than say what they would do to fix things
Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader

But he added the Conservatives' approach would also concentrate on giving people the chance of a better education, by improving schools in the poorest areas, tackling welfare dependency and supporting families who are "trying to do right thing".

"These Conservative methods of achieving progressive goals are likely to be far more successful and create a fairer society," he said.

Treasury minister Angela Eagle said Labour was "delighted" to confront the Tories over the issue of fairness.

"This is the same Tory party that opposed the minimum wage, opposed pension credit and the winter fuel allowance, opposed support for families through tax credits and still won't commit to any real pledge on child poverty," she said.

"George Osborne's latest scattergun attack is just another example of the Conservatives trying to avoid tough questions about their own unfunded and unfair policies."

And Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the Conservatives should "start setting out some serious policies" rather than "a series of hopelessly vague ambitions".

"They would rather repeatedly tell us that we are broken than say what they would do to fix things. The only genuine policy they have is a tax break for the richest 6% of people."

The Conservatives are set to unveil their proposals for boosting fairness later this week.

The plans are expected to focus on promoting opportunity rather than "top-down state control".


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