Ashdown attacks windfall tax as gimmick

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Indy Politics
Labour's windfall tax on privatised utilities will hit Britain's poorest citizens rather than the "fat cats", Paddy Ashdown said last night. The Liberal Democrat leader told a party gathering at Westminster that the tax was "a gimmick, turned into a policy, made into a flagship".

The money the Government planned to use to fund its Welfare-to-Work programme - around pounds 3bn - was not its to spend, he said. It had been paid in charges by the public and should be given back to them.

The attack was the strongest yet by him on Labour's plans.

Labour's focus on taxing the privatised utilities was similar to the Tory government's tactic of paying for income tax cuts by forcing council tax up and pinning the blame on local authorities, Mr Ashdown said. In this case, the Government's ideological enemies were not Lab- our councils, but utility bosses.

By committing itself to the Conservatives' spending plans Labour had condemned teachers to the sack and hospital wards to closure. If the Chancellor did not provide increased investment to prevent these cuts the Liberal Democrats would vote against the Budget, he said.