Francis Maude, the shadow Chancellor, launched a fresh attack on the Chancellor's pre-Budget policies during question time, giving ministers a document in which he claimed Mr Brown had admitted that since Labour had come to power, productivity had fallen by two-thirds. "Do you call that making Britain more competitive?" he asked.
But Melanie Johnson, the Economic Secretary, denied Mr Brown had made such comments, stressing that the two worst recessions since 1945 had been under Tory governments. "You doubled the national debt, we had interest rates under the Conservatives of 15 per cent and on top of that we had 22 Tory tax rises. None of that is doing very much for productivity, growth or enterprise."
But Mr Maude said the Chancellor's assessment was part of the pre-Budget report, insisting: "You can have a look at it. If the Government honestly wants to increase prosperity why have you raised tax by pounds 40 billion - pounds 30 billion on business alone - and given Britain the fastest rising tax burden in Europe?"
Mr Maude said that at the last election the Prime Minister had stated he had no plans to increase taxes at all. "The Chancellor inherited the fastest-growing economy in Europe and aren't you squandering that inheritance?"
Ms Johnson replied: "We inherited a situation where there had been boom and bust and where there was no ability for business or individuals to plan ahead because of the instability in the British economy."
In an earlier exchange, Geoffrey Robinson, the former paymaster general, praised Mr Brown's plans to extend tax relief for donations to charities, attacking the Tories for lacking "positive and flexible spirit" over the issue.
n The Government's advertising of its new working families tax credit has attracted a record 700,000 inquiries and 250,000 applications for the benefit, Mr Brown disclosed.Reuse content