Labour would sell government offices and land

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The Independent Online
Labour will order a multi-million-pound auction of government assets if it wins the election. The move, which will be outlined by the Shadow Chancellor, Gordon Brown, in the party's business manifesto this week, will mean the sale of offices and land nationwide.

The new proposals for revenue raising will provide fresh ammunition for the Shadow Chancellor, who last week fought a bitter war of words with the Conservatives on the issue of how Labour could finance its spending plans.

Under the proposals, government departments will be ordered to provide a register of their assets by November this year. Public stock alone is thought by Labour to be worth pounds 122bn.

Mr Brown's document states: "We will not hold assets that have no further use or allow the wasteful duplication of resources across departments."

Mr Brown also plans to ask the National Audit office to conduct value- for-money surveys within asset-rich departments. The business manifesto adds that a spending review "will begin work immediately to examine whether each department is using its assets efficiently and effectively, the scope for greater use of public-private partnerships and how value-for-money can be increased for the public purse".

The move will coincide with another bid by the party leader, Tony Blair, to stress his party's commitment to private enterprise. Mr Blair will tell a City audience tomorrow that he has no ideological problem with privatisations and that the test of their suitability should be on a case- by-case basis.

The Labour leader will argue: "The test is not public ownership but the public interest. What counts is what works. I certainly believe that where there is no over-riding reason for preferring the public provision of goods and services, particularly where they operate in the competitive market, the presumption should be that economic activity is best left to the private sector."