Kennedy goes on the attack against Labour 'authoritarian state'

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Indy Politics

Charles Kennedy will accuse the Government of turning Britain into an "over-centralised and authoritarian state" this week when he launches a pre-election drive to distance the Liberal Democrats from Labour.

Charles Kennedy will accuse the Government of turning Britain into an "over-centralised and authoritarian state" this week when he launches a pre-election drive to distance the Liberal Democrats from Labour.

His party's pre-manifesto document, to be published on Wednesday, will also confirm its commitment to a 50p top rate of tax for earnings in excess of £100,000. Titled "Freedom in a Liberal Society", the paper will call for a "massive attack" on poverty, for efficient and cheap public transport and for better environmental policies.

In his introduction, Mr Kennedy writes: "Freedom is about promoting independence for individuals and communities. That means a distinct shift of power from today's over-centralised and authoritarian state."

The document launches a direct attack on Labour, accusing both it and the Conservatives of having "a strong interfering streak, in private lives and the economy".

It says: "One of the most disappointing aspects of the current government ... is that Labour still seeks to control and to limit freedom. It gives away power with one hand and imposes new controls and restrictions with the other."

Each section of the document will be accompanied by a "Green Thinking" box, assessing the environmental impact of the party's policies. The Liberal Democrats want to see a far greater emphasis on the environment and pollution, as well as full environmental assessments of public buildings aimed at saving fuel. The document will also call for an expansion of the Environment Agency's inspectorate so that firms guilty of causing pollution are more likely to face prosecution.

The party's existing commitment to a 10p increase in the top rate of tax will be supplemented by national insurance reforms, which could mean higher bills for people earning as little as £15,600 per year.

The Liberal Democrats' Treasury team has calculated that it can drive a wedge between different Labour factions with its tax pledges. Mr Kennedy wants higher taxes on middle-income and highincome earners in return for tax cuts for the poorest. Treasury figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats have shown that the highest earners paid 36 per cent of their income in tax, while the lowest earners paid 40 per cent.

A 50p higher rate of tax for all annual earnings above £100,000 would raise an extra £2.9bn for the Exchequer each year. The Liberal Democrats want to abolish the 10p basic rate of income tax for the lowest earners, but that would cost £4.6bn.

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