Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 16:52 UK

Osborne: Brown misled MPs on cuts

David Cameron: "They are wrong to try and cover-up their plans for cuts "

Leaked Treasury documents show Gordon Brown "misled" Parliament on the scale of planned spending cuts, shadow chancellor George Osborne has said.

The papers suggest the government is preparing 9.3% cuts in departmental budgets over the four years from 2010, he told the BBC.

He said Mr Brown had told MPs he was not planning 10% cuts.

No 10 rejected claims Mr Brown misled Parliament while sources said the Treasury has ordered a leak inquiry.

'Cover-up'

Conservative leader David Cameron told his monthly press conference the 22 page document showed Mr Brown had been engaged in a long-term "cover-up" of plans to cut public spending.

"Wednesday after Wednesday, the prime minister stood up in the House of Commons and repeated the line that the coming battle was between Labour investment on the one hand and Tory cuts on the other," he said.

Stephanie Flanders
The most interesting thing about the leaked numbers from an economic standpoint is just how pessimistic the Treasury is being about the rise in social costs over the next few years
Stephanie Flanders
BBC economics editor

"All those words have turned to dust and, as I consistently warned week after week, reality has now caught up with our prime minister."

He added: "Gordon Brown was denying something that his own civil servants were telling him was true."

Mr Cameron said the Conservatives had been "candid" about the need for spending cuts and would spell out their plans in more detail closer to the next election.

"Let me make it clear: they are not wrong to be planning cuts but they are wrong to try to cover up their plans for cuts," he told the news conference.

"This is about honesty, it is about trust. This is about not taking people for fools. And on this issue, as I have to say on so many others, the prime minister does not seem to have learned."

Frontline services

Mr Osborne said the documents showed Mr Brown had "misled" Parliament as he had dubbed Mr Cameron "Mr 10%" while "sitting all the time on internal Treasury documents telling him the real truth".

On Tuesday, Mr Brown admitted that Labour would have to make cuts in public spending if it won the next election but he said the party would never "support cuts in the vital frontline services on which people depend".

But in June, the prime minister claimed that the government was planning real terms increases in public spending.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

And he seized on comments by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley, who said that in order to protect spending on health and schools a future Conservative government would cut spending in other areas by a total of 10% between 2011 and 2015.

Mr Lansley said the Conservatives had been working from the government's own figures but Mr Brown taunted Mr Cameron, saying he had "better admit" that he wants to cut expenditure by "10%".

No plans

The prime minister's spokesman would not comment on the leaked document, saying there were "a number of documents that would be around that would have within them assumptions at various stages of the planning process".

He told reporters: "The most important point is that there are no plans for departmental spending beyond the current spending review period."

I wasn't misled
Vince Cable
Liberal Democrats

He added: "It is an obvious statement that the prime minister would never mislead Parliament, clearly."

The Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman Vince Cable told the BBC the Conservatives were trying to "make a big political issue out of this".

"I wasn't misled. I think we all realised, who have studied government documents, that cuts were on the way," he said.

"It was all very clear, it was all very much on the record. The government, particularly Gordon Brown, were a bit silly in refusing to use the word 'cuts' but it's been clear to everybody that cuts were on the way and the issue is when, how and where?"

'Tough squeeze'

Robert Chote, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the leaked document showed the impact of figures published in the Budget on public spending.

Once higher debt interest and social security payments, and other costs outside the government's control, were taken into account, they showed "core Whitehall spending" would fall by 2.9% a year in real terms, over three years, he said.

"That is a tougher squeeze than we have seen at any time since we were negotiating spending plans with the IMF back in the late 1970s," he told the BBC.



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