Parliament Tax: pounds 40bn in hidden taxes, say Tories

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THE CONSERVATIVES accused Gordon Brown of being the "pickpocket Chancellor" yesterday when they launched a campaign claiming the Government had imposed hidden tax rises worth pounds 40bn.

The shadow Chancellor, Francis Maude, said that Mr Brown had deceived the public with a series of "stealth taxes" on petrol, company cars, mortgages, health insurance and the married couple's allowance.

In a reworking of the "double whammy" tax campaign they used in their 1992 election success, the Tories claimed that recent rises would cost an average family pounds 700 a year.

However, Mr Maude refused to say which taxes his own party would cut, saying that voters would have to "wait for my first Budget" to find out.

To encourage a more honest approach, prices for petrol and beer should make clear how much of the total is tax and excise duty, he said.

Similarly, annual statements should be sent to taxpayers with details of the exact amount of income tax and national insurance paid.

More than pounds 5bn a year was being raised on pension funds, mortgage interest tax relief had been cut by a third and the married couple's allowance had been reduced by a third.

The overall tax burden, measured as tax and social security contributions as a proportion of gross domestic product, would rise from 35.7 per cent in 1996-97 to 37.7 in 2001-02.

"They deliberately gave the impression that they would not be increasing taxes at all - they have broken that promise and it's time for us as the Opposition to hold them to account," he said.

Mr Maude admitted that the Conservatives had been damaged by their own record on taxation and had lost the public's "trust" before the last election. But the party was "determined" to regain its reputation as the party of low taxes, he said.

Downing Street dismissed the claims yesterday. "We are confident that people are significantly better off as a result of the policies taken over the last two years," a spokesman said.