Kennedy calls for honesty on tax

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Indy Politics

The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy challenged Labour and the Tories yesterday to tell the truth about their tax plans.

The Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy challenged Labour and the Tories yesterday to tell the truth about their tax plans.

Mr Kennedy said trust in taxation was breaking down because Gordon Brown would not admit he had raised taxes and the Conservatives' plans were "all over the place".

By contrast the Liberal Democrats offered fairer and simpler tax but not higher levels of general taxation, he said.

Mr Kennedy, speaking at the Commonwealth Club in London, said the "contract" between government and the people on tax only worked if political parties were straightforward.

Labour had ploughed vast sums into public services and had put up taxes to pay for them, he told his audience. He said Gordon Brown was right to do it but it was "a shame the Chancellor is frightened to be up front about it".

"He has raised that money by putting up taxes. He just won't say so. Many of his tax rises have been stealth taxes. And even when he planned to raise national insurance he couldn't bring himself to admit it at the 2001 general election."

Mr Kennedy also said Tory plans were in a mess.

"One minute we are being promised the possibility of tax cuts, the next we are told that cuts might not be possible. Then we are told that Michael Howard would like to grant tax cuts but he can't exactly specify how. It's a mess. The truth is that Conservative economic thinking is all over the place.

"Last week the Prime Minister attacked the Conservatives for 'fantasy politics'. I would put it another way. I would call it the politics of desperation."

Paul Boateng, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said in response: "The Liberal Democrats' figures simply don't add up.They have made over 100 spending commitments that no responsible government could deliver. Liam Fox, co-chairman, of the Tory party, said: "If Mr Kennedy is serious about making his budgets add up, he should explain how to fund their 100 spending commitments."

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