Lib Dem Conference: Minister warns of fall-out from attacks

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The Liberal Democrats were told to tone down their attacks on the Government last night when they were addressed by a new Labour Cabinet minister for the first time last night.

But Alistair Darling, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who missed a ministerial meeting in order to speak to the party's business forum, said that Tony Blair and the rest of the Government were strongly committed to collaboration.

He added that such benefits must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility. Accusations of betrayal and broken promises such as those heard from delegates this week would not help. "You may have your difficulties ... but it is always helpful if you can put your comments in an informed manner. As the Tories found with Europe, if you abuse people and then come along to ask if they can do something on BSE you find your reception isn't so warm. Co-operation is a two-way process. It is one of mutual respect," he said. "There are temptations to throw red meat to the delegates, but you have to be aware of the fall-out."

Echoing comments made to the conference by Paddy Ashdown, he spoke of the Liberal Democrats needing to tackle "dangers" where the two parties had disagreements.

"It means making hard choices, it means realising there are hard decisions to be made and recognising the other person's point of view," he said.

Responding to criticism of Labour's decision not to put up income taxes, in order to raise public spending, he was particularly combative. The Tories had left Labour with economic problems which must be addressed, he argued.