BBC HOMEPAGE | NEWS | WORLD SERVICE | SPORT | MY BBC low graphics | help
news vote 2001search vote 2001
 You are in: Vote2001
VOTE2001 
Main Issues 
Features 
Crucial Seats 
Key People 
Parties 
Results &  Constituencies 
Opinion Polls 
Online 1000 
Virtual Vote 
Talking Point 
Forum 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 
Voting System 
Local Elections 
Nations 

N Ireland 
Scotland 
Wales 

BBC News

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Andrew Marr
says the attack by the Tories on Labour's national insurance plans could prove very effective
 real 56k

The BBC's Guto Harri
"Both sides are playing the same game"
 real 56k

Monday, 21 May, 2001, 07:33 GMT
Portillo: 20bn claim wrong
Michael Portillo
Tory sums are in the spotlight
Shadow chancellor Michael Portillo has said his deputy's talk of plans to cut tax by 20bn in five years was wrong.

Oliver Letwin, the Tory shadow treasury chief spokesman, has confirmed he was the source behind a Financial Times article which put the tax cut level way beyond the 8bn manifesto pledge.

While he denies mentioning the 20bn figure, Mr Letwin says the original story was a "perfectly accurate representation" of his comments.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have argued the comments show Conservative economic plans are in chaos.

Cuts and growth

In the aftermath of its original story, the FT published further comments by Mr Letwin.

Labour's Letwin wanted poster
Labour put out "wanted" posters for Letwin
In them, he said: "You've got a progression which goes four, eight, 12, 16, 20 billion pounds.

"It is 190% realistic to cut spending growth in this way."

Mr Portillo was pressed on the issue in a live debate on BBC1's On The Record programme.

"The figures are not right at all," he said.

"I have made it perfectly clear that in the first Budget I am only committed to 2.2bn worth of tax cuts and that is to produce the reduction in tax on fuel.

"At the end of my second year I will have produced 8bn worth of savings against government spending plans and I would deliver 8bn of tax cuts.

"Beyond that period we will be able to go on reducing taxes."

Asked whether the newspaper had got it wrong, Mr Portillo replied: "Because I wasn't there it is impossible to judge, but William Hague and I make economic policy."

Labour chief treasury secretary Andrew Smith said Mr Letwin had "let the cat out of the bag".

Matthew Taylor
Taylor attacks "something for nothing" politics
He said Mr Letwin's comments showed that far from being prudent, the Tories were planning 20bn in spending cuts.

Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor wrote to William Hague on Sunday demanding he either back Mr Letwin on the 20bn figure or sack him.

National Insurance row

Mr Portillo turned his fire on Chancellor Gordon Brown over Labour's tax plans.

"We saw him on television this morning giving no guarantee that he wouldn't jack up National Insurance Contributions.

"That could cost someone earning 35,000-a-year, another 500 a year effectively of tax, of National Insurance contributions."

Mr Smith insisted Labour had kept its tax promises, despite Tory claims that the tax burden had risen by 3% of national income.

"Our instinct is not to be a tax raising party, but we do recognise that things have to be paid for," he said.

"It's why I said earlier that no responsible chancellor could make blanket commitments about every tax."

For the Lib Dems, Mr Taylor argued there could not be "something for nothing".

He argued there needed to be modest tax rises to improve public services.

 A/V CONSOLE
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS

Latest stories

TALKING POINT

AUDIO/VIDEO

INTERACT
PARTY WEB LINKS



The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Related stories:

15 May 01 |  Vote2001
Thatcherite Letwin goes to ground
15 May 01 |  Vote2001
Tories struggle with tax row
18 May 01 |  Vote2001
Labour hits again at Tory tax cuts
18 May 01 |  Vote2001
Battle of the Chancellors
©BBC