Politics: Tories say families are pounds 1,000 worse off from rises in tax

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT has broken its word not to raise taxes, and the average family is now pounds 1,000 a year worse off, the Tories claimed last night.

There have been 17 tax rises and six interest rate increases since the election, Francis Maude, the new Tory Treasury spokesman, told the Commons.

Gordon Brown's absence from the debate was also attacked as "lamentable". Mr Maude faced Alistair Darling, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, rather than the Chancellor in yesterday's Opposition debate.

Mr Brown had to attend a meeting with the monetary affairs committee of the European Parliament.

Mr Darling denied accusations that Labour has broken its pledges on taxation. "We have made sure that where we have been able to increase taxes more, in the working families tax credit, for example, we are directing help where it is needed to those families on low incomes and those families which we want to help make work pay."

Mr Maude claimed the Prime Minister had promised unequivocally before the election that Labour had no plans to increase taxation at all.

Opening his first full-scale debate against the Government since his appointment, Mr Maude also attacked the Government's economic policy, which he claimed was in disarray after it had been unable to fulfil its pre-election promises.

The Government has been basking in the glow of the golden economic legacy the Tories handed over to them, and took the credit for all that occurred, he said. But he said the trickle of bad news threatens to turn into a torrent.

Mr Maude highlighted a number of problems with the economy: the Government missed its own inflation target 12 months out of the last 13; the six interest-rate increases have raised the cost of living, putting pressure on earnings; the balance of payments figures are heading into the red; and business failures are up nearly 10 per cent in the last quarter, according to a new survey.

Labour's attempts to end the boom-bust economic cycle had failed, he told the Commons.

Mr Darling refused to say which point of the cycle the British economy is in. "We are putting many measures in place that will maintain long term stability," he said.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Malcolm Bruce attacked both the Tory and Labour handling of the economy. "Two people are responsible for the economy's current predicament: the last Chancellor of the Exchequer, who kept interest rates artificially low before the election, and the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, who piled taxes onto hard pressed business rather than high spending consumers."