Brown vows to be tougher on inflation

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Indy Politics
A Labour government would be tougher on inflation than the Tories have been, Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said last night.

Mr Brown told a London business forum that Labour would set the same inflation target as the present government, "to achieve underlying inflation of 2.5 per cent or less"; ensuring that the Retail Price Index, excluding mortgage interest payments, remained in the 1 per cent to 4 per cent range.

But he added: "While the Conservatives have managed to keep underlying inflation within the 1 to 4 per cent range, the target of 2.5 per cent or less has not been met since December 1994. Since the target was first set, it has been achieved in just 11 out of the 52 months. So the Government has clearly failed to achieve an average inflation rate of 2.5 per cent over the course of this Parliament."

He said: "We are tougher not just because we understand the need to tackle the causes of inflation at source. It is also because we will ensure decision-making on interest rates is more effective, open and accountable. In this way, we will make clear that decisions are being taken ... for the long-term national economic interest.

"This will deliver the confidence and stability among investors and business which is necessary for credibility."

Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, yesterday accused Mr Brown of retreating into a system of secrecy and political manipulation.

However, Mr Brown said in his speech that he wanted to keep the existing framework of the Bank of England's inflation report, and the monthly meetings between the Chancellor and the Governor, followed by publication of the minutes six weeks later.

He said there remained strong suspicion of political expediency, and added that, under Labour, interest-rate decisions had to be made at the meetings between the Chancellor and the Governor, with immediate announcement, along with proper justification to the public.

"If we are to achieve our objectives for inflation," Mr Brown said, "never again should interest-rate decisions affecting the long-term appear to be manipulated for short-term party political ends."

As reported in The Independent yesterday, Mr Brown said he wanted to broaden the advice given to the Treasury and the Bank.

"It is time to move from the Government's ad hoc, often subjective and even amateurish approach to decision-making on matters vital to every family and business in the land to a consistent, better-informed and more professional system of policy-making both in the Treasury and the Bank of England."

However, he was more cautious than some newspaper reports suggested about Bank independence. No decisions had been taken on giving the Bank statutory powers to set interest rates to achieve the Government's inflation target.

But Mr Brown said the Government rather than the Bank of England "must set the targets for monetary and fiscal policy".

n A MORI poll in today's Times gives Labour a 21-point lead at 52 per cent, down three points in the past month. The Tories are up one point to 31 per cent.

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