Gordon Brown has turned his fire on David Cameron by accusing the Tories of making unfunded spending promises that would cost billions of pounds.
In a foretaste of the battle between them if Mr Brown becomes Prime Minister, Labour has challenged the Tory leader to say how policy ideas floated by him and his frontbench team would be financed.
Labour has drawn up a dossier of 40 unfunded promises made by the Tories since Mr Cameron became leader in December last year. Although the Opposition insists it will have no official policies until after a review reports next summer, some senior Tories admit privately that they need to show greater discipline to avoid making uncosted spending commitments.
According to Labour, 10 pledges were made at the Tory conference in Bournemouth without a price tag. They included building more prisons and housing; more occupational therapy for older people; saving special schools for pupils with learning difficulties; and recruiting more health visitors, district nurses and school nurses.
Labour's dossier claims that Mr Cameron has made 26 spending promises in speeches, interviews and articles. They include: a new allowance for married couples; raising tax thresholds; tax relief for child care; a national school-leaver programme; boosting police salaries; more drug rehabilitation; a new border police force; more money for the intelligence services; and more money for voluntary bodies and charities.
According to Labour, the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, has added to the list of Tory pledges by expressing his interest in scrapping stamp duty on share transactions, which would cost £4.7bn, and hinting at a £1.4bn handout by allowing wives or husbands who stay at home to transfer their tax-free allowances to their spouses.
Labour says transferable allowances would be of little help to the poorest families. Labour says that 1.2 million couples would not benefit because they both earn below the tax-free allowance, including 400,000 pensioners.
Stephen Timms, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "The Tories are simultaneously promising to cut public spending while making dozens of unaffordable new spending promises. It shows they have learnt nothing from the mistakes of the 1990s, when David Cameron was advising Norman Lamont in the Treasury, and cannot be trusted to run the economy, the public finances or our public services."
On Thursday, the Tories' tax commission, in its interim report, is expected to call for tax cuts of £20bn, but Mr Cameron has ruled out making an early promise to reduce taxes.
A Tory spokesman said: "This is a meaningless list aimed at disguising the fact that Gordon Brown has presided over nine years of failing public services, soaring taxes and an ever-worsening pensions crisis."
Mr Cameron attacked as "outrageous" Mr Brown's claim to have created full employment, and suggested that five million people were out of work. In a speech in Edinburghcalling for a shake-up of benefits for disabled people, he said: "Real unemployment in Britain is around five million - five million people left on the scrapheap while British firms deal with the resulting labour shortage by employing migrant workers. That is morally wrong and stupid and it has got to stop."
Jim Murphy, an Employment minister, said that Mr Cameron's claim implied that every lone parent claiming income support and every incapacity benefit claimant - even those with serious disabilities - should be looking for a job.Reuse content