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Chancellor Gordon Brown
speaking at Labour's Friday news conference
 real 56k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 11:14 GMT
Labour hits again at Tory tax cuts
Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown fronts Labour's morning news conference
Gordon Brown has moved to regain the initiative on the economy by attacking Conservative tax-cutting proposals.

The chancellor, fronting Labour's Friday news conference, turned his fire onto shadow Treasury secretary Oliver Letwin, who has been hounded all week for allegedly claiming that the Tories could cut taxes by as much as 20bn.

Cuts would now have to be very deep and would hit families and the most vulnerable pensioners most of all

Gordon Brown
Labour say Mr Letwin's comments to the Financial Times go way beyond William Hague's pledge to cut taxes by 8bn over the first two years of the next parliament.

Mr Brown was joined at the news conference by Health Secretary Alan Milburn, Schools Standards Minister Estelle Morris and Immigration Minister Barbara Roche to demonstrate what it sees as its wide policy agenda.


Mr Brown argued that Mr Letwin's comments over recent days confirmed that Tory tax cuts would progressively lead to spending reductions of 20bn, with 4bn of them implemented immediately.

"With the clock already ticking in this financial year - three months into this financial year - they have an obligation to tell us where they would find the cuts in this year's budget," he said.

"Cuts would now have to be very deep and would hit families and the most vulnerable pensioners most of all."

And Mr Brown suggested that the Conservatives were running from questions by holding just two news conferences and a manifesto launch since the election was called.

"The Tories can run from the basic questions but they cannot hide their 20 billion cuts plan for ever," he said.

The chancellor's comments came as Labour publicised its magazine-style family issues manifesto which sets out the party's plans for more police, teachers, doctors and nurses.

It will be sent to 1m targeted homes in key seats.

Meanwhile, Mr Milburn outlined plans to "embed reform" in all parts of the health service.

More devolution

He said the biggest reform would be the devolution of power within the NHS.

"Just as schools now have greater control over resources, and how they are organised so local health services - run by local staff - will now be given greater control," he said.

And Ms Morris underlined Labour's commitment to modernising comprehensive education pledging 1,500 specialist schools by 2006.

Asylum cannot be used as a backdoor way for illegal immigration; there is an issue here

Barbara Roche
The issue of asylum dominated the questions from journalists.

Barbara Roche - who has responsibility for immigration - said Labour was not opposed to legal immigration, but acknowledged that there was an issue with asylum seekers.

"Asylum cannot be used as a backdoor way for illegal immigration; there is an issue here. It is not a question of being tough, it is a question of sorting it out," she said.

Ms Roche said the Conservatives' plans to hold all new asylum seekers in secure reception centres would not work and were "quite possibly" illegal.

Later, shadow chancellor Michael Portillo rejected the suggestion that his tax-cutting plans would cost 20bn.

"We have identified how we will make 8bn of savings in government spending plans over two years," he insisted.

Tax-cutting 'aspirations'

He added: "Thereafter, we do still have tax-cutting aspirations. We are not quantifying these."

The priorities within those aspirations included taking more people out of higher income tax rates and easing the burden of inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

"If, perish the thought, Labour won this election, the extra tax needed to meet their spending plans would take petrol to 6 a gallon if fuel remained their favourite target," said Mr Portillo.


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No change from 8bn