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UK Politics

Brown accuses Tories over public services spending

Gordon Brown accused the Tories today of planning deep cuts in public services after a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet said most departments would have to slash budgets by 10 per cent.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said "very powerful spending constraint" elsewhere would be required to allow a Conservative government to give real-terms increases to the NHS, schools and foreign aid.

It was for shadow chancellor George Osborne to set out where the axe would fall over the three years from 2011, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, admitting it would be "very tough".

The Prime Minister seized on his comments as he battled Tory leader David Cameron at question time in the Commons - seeking to draw a clear General Election battle line over spending.

Calling on Mr Cameron to confirm the 10% figure, he said: "Let us have a debate about the choice that really does exist in the country between a Conservative Party that now wants to cut, even at a time of recession, into our basic public services and a Labour Party that wants to invest in them."

The Opposition leader accused the PM of planning 7 per cent across-the- board cuts.

"The next election, when you have the guts to call it, won't be about Labour investment versus Tory cuts, it is going to be an election about the mismanagement of the public finances, the appalling deficit you have left and your plan for cuts," he countered.

But Mr Brown insisted that spending would continue to rise under Labour, telling MPs voters would face a choice between "a Government that is increasing public spending and a Conservative leader who, for the first time in the House of Commons during this Parliament, has now admitted that the policy of his party is spending cuts".

Mr Lansley revealed the 10 per cent figure when he was outlining how a Tory administration would pay for real-terms funding increases for health services.

"Unfortunately, what this means is there is going to have to be very powerful spending constraint elsewhere across government," he told Today.

"We have made it clear where our priorities lie: we are going to increase the resources for the NHS, we are going to increase resources for international development aid, we are going to increase resources for schools,

"But that does mean, over three years after 2011, a 10 per cent reduction in the departmental expenditure limits for other departments. It is a very tough spending requirement indeed."

Asked where those savings would be made, he said: "With respect, that's the job of George Osborne and Philip Hammond, who are the Treasury team, to be clear about where the spending restraint bites."