Brown challenges Tories on public spending plans

Gordon Brown accused the Conservatives yesterday of planning cuts of up to £150bn from public services as he challenged them to come clean about their spending plans.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the fringes of a G8 finance ministers' meeting in New York, opened a bitter pre-election row with the Tories after Labour claimed Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, had floated the idea at a conference last week of cutting spending to 30 per cent of national income.

Mr Letwin angrily denied the claims as a "farrago of nonsense", but Mr Brown went on the attack, claiming the cuts would be "more extreme than anything Mrs Thatcher ever contemplated".

The latest row emerged after The Independent on Sunday reported Mr Letwin's comments at a conference at the Institute of Economic Affairs last week. Mr Letwin hinted at future cuts beyond the Tories' pledge to cut spending from 42 to 40 per cent of gross domestic product within six years.

He said the party would achieve its savings and "set the path of public spending on a trend to permit further reductions thereafter". He acknowledged that a proposal to cut spending to 35 or 30 per cent of GDP would be rejected by the electorate: "If those were the terms in which the general election were to be couched I am confident I could predict the result, which is that the nation would choose the higher path."

Labour seized on the comments as evidence that the Conservatives are planning deep cuts in public services, a charge which is one of the party's main attacks on the Opposition in the run-up to June's local and European elections.

But Mr Letwin said reports that he was planning cuts to 30 per cent of GDP were "unfounded" while aides insisted he had merely referred to questions put to him.

Michael Howard, the Tory leader, told the BBC: "The truth is that we have made our position very clear: we want to reduce public spending over a period of six years from 42 per cent to 40 per cent of the national income. That's our policy, that's what we'll go to the country on, we're absolutely clear on that. At the next election after that, we'll make our policy for that next parliament clear at that time."

But Mr Brown said: "It would mean rising unemployment. It is simply a return to the boom-and-bust policies that Michael Howard himself was associated with in the early Nineties when you had public spending cuts, interest rates out of control, three million unemployed, and you had a Conservative Party that was simply very poor at managing the economy.

"So I think this is a revelation that raises a whole series of questions about whether the Conservatives are telling the truth about what their real plans are for the public services. People begin to realise that this is more extreme than ever and is very damaging to the public services. Law and order would be cut, defence would be cut, transport would be cut, universities would be cut, science would be cut."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine