Five firm pledges spelt out in the New Labour manifesto

The bill for action could look very different from the account presented
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The Independent Online
Labour has just five hard-and-fast pledges, the solid commitments that the party agreed in its draft manifesto, New Labour, New Life for Britain.

The pledges, endorsed by a mass vote of rank-and-file party members, are:

A cut in class sizes to 30 or under for all five-, six- and seven-year- olds;

Fast-track punishment for persistent young offenders;

Cut National Health Service waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients;

Get 250,000 under-25s off benefit and into work;

Set tough rules for government spending and borrowing, ensure lower inflation, and strengthen the economy.

Labour says that it would finance the cut in class sizes by phasing out the assisted-places scheme, but the Tories estimate that would pay for less than one-third of the cost.

Yesterday's Conservative dossier said that statisticians at the Department of Education and Employment "calculate that between 4,900 and 10,300 extra teachers would be needed in England and Wales" to fulfil the pledge. The total cost for the United Kingdom is put at pounds 210m.

Even the Conservatives calculate that Labour's fast-track punishment for young offenders would cost only pounds 5m.

Labour says that it would provide funding for a cut in National Health Service waiting lists by "releasing pounds 100m saved from NHS red tape".

The Conservatives said yesterday that it would cost considerably more to cut waiting lists by 100,000. It said: "Labour claim that this money would be redirected from the cost of administering the internal market. However, abolishing the internal market would in fact cost more money."

As for the long-standing commitment on unemployed under-25, Labour has said it would fund that by using some of the money raised from the windfall tax on privatised utilities.

Yesterday's Conservative costing on that pledge was pounds 500m, with 400,000 under-25s unemployed for more than six months each year.

The gross cost would be an estimated pounds 860m, with benefit savings of pounds 420m, but there would be extra first-year costs, according to the Tory dossier, because action would need to be taken for the existing pool of 270,000 under-25s unemployed for more than six months.

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