Howard admits Tories are divided over size of tax cuts

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Michael Howard admitted yesterday that the Conservatives were split over the scale of their promised tax cuts. But he said that the party may exceed the £4bn reductions in public spending he has pledged.

Michael Howard admitted yesterday that the Conservatives were split over the scale of their promised tax cuts. But he said that the party may exceed the £4bn reductions in public spending he has pledged.

In an interview on BBC Radio 2, he said: "It is perfectly true that I am being attacked on one side by people who think we ought to be promising much, much bigger tax cuts and spending less. On the other side, there are people who say we won't be able to achieve these tax cuts. I think we have got it about right."

Mr Howard spoke during a day of clashes between the Conservatives and Labour over tax and public spending cuts.

Earlier this month Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, urged Mr Howard to offer "radical" reductions in tax. But yesterday the Conservative leader insisted that he wanted to deliver greater tax cuts in time. He said: "I am also absolutely determined not to make any promises I can't keep. We are talking here about our first Budget after the election.

"Later, I hope to do more, but because I know I can't make firm promises about what will happen after that first Budget, I am limiting what I say to the promises I know I can keep."

The Tories challenged Tony Blair to explain which taxes he would increase to pay off what they claimed was £8bn of excess government borrowing after the next election.

But John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the Tories had not revealed full details of their plans for £35bn of public sector cuts. He said: "The conclusion must be that even the Conservatives know their sums do not add up."

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