Tories condemn Budget leaflet

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The Independent Online
PARLIAMENT'S FINANCIAL watchdog has been called on to investigate claims that the Government wasted taxpayers' money on misleading "propaganda" about the Budget.

The Tories lodged a formal complaint with Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, about more than a million leaflets issued by the Treasury summarising the tax changes.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, had wanted to send the leaflets to every one of Britain's 24 million households, but decided to issue just 1.25 million to Post Offices, libraries and universities after Treasury officials objected.

But Francis Maude, the Shadow Chancellor, said that the leaflet was still a misuse of money because it gave a biased and inaccurate picture of the Budget.

In a letter to Sir John, who heads the National Audit Office, Mr Maude said that the leaflet omitted key measures that were likely to prove unpopular, such as higher stamp duty, fuel taxes and alterations to national insurance contributions for the self-employed.

Information about the new children's tax credit did not say that it would be tapered for higher-rate taxpayers. Other parts of the leaflet contrasted the high interest rates of the Tories administration with today's levels.

Mr Maude said the leaflets should be independently scrutinised by Parliament. "Gordon Brown's leaflet takes Budget mis-selling to new levels of deception. It is littered with party political propaganda, omissions and irrelevancies," he said.

"After the Chancellor's `stealth Budget', the British are being bombarded with the stealth leaflet. It purports to be a factual summary of the Budget from Her Majesty's Treasury, but in truth it is a disgrace to the traditions of impartiality of the Civil Service."

Mr Maude also called on Sir Andrew Turnbull, the permanent secretary at the Treasury, to investigate "this flagrant abuse of taxpayers' money".

The Tories yesterday also claimed that the Budget would hit pensioner couples hard with its scrapping of the married couples allowance (MCA).

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory social security spokesman, said that the Chancellor had failed to publicise the fact that all pensioners from next year would lose the MCA.