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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Labour invoke Thatcher memories
Margaret Thatcher
Labour ministers mentioned Lady Thatcher several times
Margaret Thatcher would have been appalled by the economic pledges being made by her Conservative successors, Labour ministers have claimed.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said the Tories usually stressed economic competence, but had "thrown caution to the wind".

Tory leader Michael Howard insists his party would take the "tough decisions" needed and accuse Labour of leaving a "gaping black hole" in public finances.

The Lib Dems want to streamline inspections and simplify taxes.

Speaking at Labour's morning news conference, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said that Mrs Thatcher had run the economy, but Mr Howard was running away from it in his campaign.

[Lady Thatcher] never got herself in the position of making promises here, there and everywhere
Gordon Brown

Lady Thatcher - British prime minister from 1979 to 1990 - would "never have countenanced" the promises being made by today's Conservative leadership, she added.

Asked why Labour ministers kept referring to Lady Thatcher, Mr Brown said she would have been "appalled" by today's Tory pledges.

He said: "The central message of the Conservative party throughout the 1980s and indeed the early nineties was their competence on the economy.

"That's what they talked about all the time, that's what their manifestos were all about. But she never got herself in the position of making promises here, there and everywhere.

"If you look at the Conservative manifesto, all caution has been taken to the wind, has been thrown away, and on their local manifestos are promising this, that and everything else."

John Prescott, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Labour ministers trumpeted their record on urban regeneration

Labour say they are the party of economic stability and say the Conservatives' business manifesto , launched on Monday, is "threadbare".

Labour's own document, "Strong Economy, Great Cities", trumpets the "urban renaissance" in eight "core cities" in England, as well as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

In a speech to the Chambers of Commerce in London Mr Brown said Labour "refused to make the short-term mistakes of the past" which had led to a "stop-go" economy.

"Our watchword will be stability yesterday, today and tomorrow. Stability first foremost and always."

And pointing to his own record, he said: "We've avoided a situation where we used to be first in, worst hit and last out of an economic down turn."

We believe the people who work in our businesses can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world and deliver the prosperity this country depends on
Lord Newby
Liberal Democrats

But Tory leader Michael Howard insisted it was his party that would take the "tough decisions" required to keep the economy on an even footing.

The chancellor had a "gaping black hole" in his public finances, he said adding: "almost every independent body from the Institute of Fiscal of Studies to the International Monetary Fund agrees."

If Labour were to get back into power they would raise taxes or increase national insurance, he said

"They maybe willing to put up business taxes in next year's budget. I am not. That's why we are putting 8bn of that 12bn of savings to plugging that black hole."

The Conservatives have promised to cut "red tape" to help business and more support for entrepreneurs in their document Action for Business.

Streamline

It is a 10-point policy plan which includes lower business taxes and more government support for UK exporters.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have also promised to "support business by setting it free".

The party would abolish the Department of Trade and Industry and say businesses are struggling "under a mountain of government rules, tax complications, bureaucracy and inspection".

Lib Dem Lords spokesman Lord Newby said: "We will streamline the inspection regimes businesses face. We will simplify the tax system they struggle with."

"Liberal Democrats are instinctively a pro-business party. We believe the people who work in our businesses can stand toe-to-toe with the best in the world and deliver the prosperity this country depends on."



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