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UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The thing that matters for us is substance"
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Conservative leader William Hague
"There are a lot of business men and business women who will be supporting the Conservative party"
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The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Mr Hague wants a rough and ready, unmanaged campaign"
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The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Norfolk school girls were not the only thing chasing William Hague today"
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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 21:28 GMT
Hague plays down tax row
William and Ffion Hague
William and Ffion Hague arrive in Cardiff
Conservative leader William Hague has again attacked Labour on tax despite accusations his own economic policy is in "tatters".

Mr Hague's speech on Monday came after he played down suggestions that Tory tax-cutting plans went way beyond the figure of 8bn already announced.

That intervention was prompted by a report in Monday's Financial Times (FT) that the total could reach 20bn by the end of the next parliament and by remarks from a senior Tory that the party had "ambitions" over and above the existing promise.

We will increase public spending but in a way that allows us to commit to cast-iron reductions in tax of 8 billion

Francis Maude
Labour's Gordon Brown accused the Tories of making "incoherent and irresponsible" tax promises and the Liberal Democrats branded the party a "shambles".

Campaigning in Wales, Mr Hague told a news conference: "8bn is the only figure we have given and the only figure we will be giving and that is the correct figure."


Earlier shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude told another news conference in London that the Tories had "ambitions" beyond the 8bn already pledged - although he too insisted there was "no basis" in the 20bn touted in the Financial Times.

"We will increase public spending but in a way that allows us to commit to cast-iron reductions in tax of 8 billion," he said.

The row did not stop Mr Hague going on the offensive again in Cardiff on Monday evening at the first major Tory rally of the election campaign.

Taxes in the UK were spiralling out of control, he claimed.

But comparing what he said was Labour's failure to deliver to a bad shop, Mr Hague argued voters did have a choice.

"If your local supermarket never stocked the goods you wanted but charged through the nose all the same, you would want a refund.

"I say you should have that refund."

Credibility in tatters

Earlier, Chancellor Gordon Brown used a speech in Swindon to say the Tories had moved from planning 8bn in tax cuts last week to 20bn on Monday.

"Today the credibility of the leader of the opposition, the shadow chancellor and indeed of the whole Conservative Party is in tatters on tax and spending."

He said they had not reached first base on economic policy and their plans would lead to economic disaster for the UK and its public services.

Later, a Labour spokesman named shadow Treasury secretary Oliver Letwin as the senior figure he believed was behind the FT article.

'More radical'

The spokesman contrasted that article with a letter from Mr Letwin to the Daily Telegraph written in March in which he said the Tories were committed to "something significantly more radical" than reducing Labour's planned spending by 8 billion.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have been arguing that their tax plans would provide an extra 3bn for spending on schools.

Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy at a pre-school centre
Party leader Charles Kennedy unveiled the plan to target schools, colleges and universities with the aim of giving every child in Britain a "consistently high-quality education".

At the party's election news conference, he said they would cut average class sizes in primary schools to 25, recruit extra secondary school teachers and abolish "irrelevant and time-consuming red tape".

Leaders criss-cross Britain

Tony Blair spent the day in Scotland where he visited Inverness and Aberdeen for an evening question and answer session.

He said Tory tax and spending policies were a joke, which he branded an incoherent strategy of "Hague-onomics".

He answered questions on a range of subjects from pensions and relations with the United States to the NHS.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair flying to Scotland
Among his answers, Mr Blair said he did not agree with renationalising Railtrack and suggested there would be no increase in income tax should Labour return to power.

At Labour's morning news conference, Mr Brown said Labour would help more small businesses to get started.

For the Tories, Mr Maude said a Labour government would be a "one-way ticket" to higher fuel prices.

Added spice

A rare moment of glamour in the campaign is promised when ex-Spice Girl Geri Halliwell will appear in a Labour election broadcast on Monday evening, serving tea to a group of pensioners.

Other parties seeking to make headway have been Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist party, and the anti-euro UK Independence party - all of which have launched their election manifestos.

Monday has also seen the fomal dissolution of parliament. All 659 members of the last parliament now cease to be MPs and can no longer use House of Commons facilities

The new parliament will open for business again on 13 June, when MPs elected next month will be sworn in before the Queen's Speech due a week later.


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14 May 01 |  Vote2001
Hague demands a refund