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Shadow Chancellor, Michael Portillo
"I think that people have been terribly over-taxed by this government"
 real 56k

Conservative Party leader William Hague
"We will keep the pound"
 real 56k

Chancellor Gordon Brown
"They cannot even get their numbers straight"
 real 56k

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Alan Beith
"This manifesto ought to carry a health warning"
 real 56k

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"They have been very quick off the mark"
 real 56k

Shadow Social Security Secretary David Willetts
defends suggestions of 'creative accounting'
 real 56k

Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 19:51 GMT
Tories raise tax stakes
William Hague and manifesto
The launch of the Conservative manifesto with 8bn in tax cuts at its heart has triggered accusations from opponents that the party's proposals are unworkable.

Highlight of a programme that opposition leader William Hague called "the most ambitious Conservative manifesto for a generation" is a six pence per litre cut in fuel duty.

Conservatives have a vision of what our country can be when it is true to its own character

William Hague

Labour said the tax promises would cost more than 16bn - while the Liberal Democrats dismissed the manifesto as evidence of a party that already knew it had lost the election.

Labour, meanwhile, went on to agree its own manifesto to be unveiled next week - and described by Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid as "radical and forward looking".

'Common sense'

Mr Hague launched his manifesto - the first of the campaign - at a central London news conference.

The 48-page document is titled "Time for common sense".

He talked of responsibility, nationhood and personal freedom as key principles.

Most of the 50 pledges have already been announced except the 2.2bn cut in "the most hated stealth tax of all", on petrol. The proposed six pence a litre cut includes a three pence cut already promised.

Main pledges
Less tax for business, families, savers, pensioners & motorists
More police
Increased NHS funding
Keep the pound
There was also a new proposal to force referendums on local councils intending to raise council tax above the rate of inflation.

Another major policy plank is Europe, with the Tories pledging to save the pound and halt the transfer of any further powers from Britain to the European Union.

Summing up his election platform to an audience of journalists, party activists and his wife Ffion, Mr Hague declared: "At this election, Britain has a choice between a Labour Party that trusts government instead of people and a Conservative Party that trusts people instead of government.

"I trust the people. I trust their common sense. It's time for common sense."

Labour attack

But Labour was swift to attack, with Tony Blair launching a pre-emptive strike at his first news conference of the election, before the Tory launch.

He said the "defining issue" of the election was the economy and the choice between the parties was "fundamental".

The prime minister also met Labour's national executive committee to rubber stamp the party's manifesto, due out next week.

Labour later published a document titled "The Tories boom and bust cuts manifesto" - illustrated with a pair of scissors.

Gordon Brown
Brown: Tories 'fail the test of economic competence'
Chancellor Gordon Brown told a news conference the Conservative tax cuts would cost double what they claimed, with further promises including lower inheritance tax and capital gains tax pushing the total even higher.

At the same time, he said, the manifesto included 6bn in uncosted spending promises such as expanding the army and building asylum reception centres.

"These are irresponsible tax promises that put stability at risk and threatens schools, hospitals and mainstream public services," Mr Brown said.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy kept up his theme of attacking both parties as he continued on his whistle-stop UK tour, taking in Southampton, Plymouth, Cardiff and Nottingham.


On the Tory manifesto he told a news conference: "I think what's very interesting, looking at the detail that has now emerged, is that this is a manifesto which is clearly written for a party that doesn't think it has a chance of winning this general election.

"It's a manifesto that is opportunistically crafted for longer term opposition rather than long term governance of the country."

At the same time Labour, he added, had "deeply disappointed".

The Scottish National Party dismissed the manifesto launch, saying: "William Hague's Tories are an irrelevance to Scottish politics".

Green Party spokesman Mike Woodin attacked the proposal to cut fuel duty, saying: "William Hague seems to be modelling himself on George Bush in America, one of the chief climate wreckers in the world."


Issues: Economy




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