Labour fights back on spending cuts charge

Labour fought back today against charges that it has not been straight with voters over public finances after an independent economic think tank warned Britain was heading for cuts on a scale unseen for a generation.





Business Secretary Lord Mandelson acknowledged that there would be more pain to come after the General Election, and admitted he could not predict how it would impact on incomes and living standards.



The Institute for Fiscal Studies accused all three main parties yesterday of failing to come clean over the scale of the public spending cuts that will be needed after the May 6 poll.



Labour and Liberal Democrat plans would require cuts deeper than in any period since the 1970s, while the Conservative programme involves larger spending reductions than in any five-year period since the Second World War, said the think tank.



But the Lib Dems have identified only a quarter of the spending cuts and tax rises needed to achieve their plans, Conservatives around one-fifth and Labour one-eighth.



Chancellor Alistair Darling insisted this morning he had been "very clear" on the need to cut spending by £38 billion to halve Britain's record structural deficit over a four-year period and had set out plans for tax rises totalling £19 billion.



Asked how this would impact on ordinary people's lives, Lord Mandelson told a press conference in London: "Nobody can forecast what the impact will be on incomes and living standards in this country because it depends so much on our resumption of economic growth."



It was "simply not possible" for governments to set a budget over the timescale considered by the IFS, which looks at the period to 2016/17, he said.



Lord Mandelson and Foreign Secretary David Miliband dismissed comparisons of the UK's economic plight with that of Greece, whose sovereign debt has been slashed to junk status, prompting panic in the markets.



But the Business Secretary accepted that Britain was heading for a "much, much tighter financial climate in the coming period than anything we have known in the last 10 years" which would require "tough choices on spending".



"There will be around £38 billion of reductions against our present plans that will have to be found," Lord Mandelson said.



"But if you are asking me for the specifics of each cut in each department's spending, you know it is not possible at a time like this to set out that detail.



"We are coming out of an economic and financial hurricane but we are not clear of it yet."



Lord Mandelson claimed that Conservative proposals to cut £6 billion from public spending this year to fund the reversal of the planned National Insurance rise would pose "a colossal risk which would send our economy backwards".



And he claimed that David Cameron would "take an axe to public spending", not just because of the parlous state of the finances but because Tories "are positively salivating at the lips over what they can do to cut spending as rapidly as possible, because that is what they believe in".







Lib Dems leader Nick Clegg acknowledged the "full, gory detail" of what will happen to public spending had not been revealed to voters.

But he said while the Lib Dems did not have the "full answer" they had been open about the first £10 billion "downpayment" that would be made to tackle the deficit.



He told BBC London's Vanessa Feltz: "I think what is, right, and I've been quite open about this: has any political party really been able to spell out in full, gory detail exactly what's going to have to happen over the next several years to fill the black hole? No.



"That's partly, frankly, because for very good reasons quite a lot of this is going to depend on growth and tax receipts and all sorts of things.



"We always have been really open. We don't have the full answer about how to deal with the full black hole.



"What we have done, I think uniquely in British politics, it's the first time I can remember any political party doing this, we have set out literally the numbers in our manifesto about how we would provide a £10 billion downpayment within the next year or two to fill the black hole."









Mr Cameron insisted he had gone as far as it was possible for an Opposition to in spelling out the detail of cuts which will be required following the election.

But he admitted that the spending reductions announced so far were "still not enough" and accused Labour of a "complete con" for claiming it would go on investing while other parties would cut.



Whichever party wins the election will have to implement cuts and Tories were "far in advance of the other parties" in saying how they would do it, he said.



Speaking during a campaign visit to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Wakefield, Mr Cameron said: "We were the first party to say that public spending had to be cut. The others weren't admitting that. We were the first to say 'Here are some of the difficult things that need to be done'.



"We are going to have to freeze public sector pay, we are going to have to ask people to retire a year later, we are going to have to say to people on over £50,000 you can't go on having tax credits. Those are tough and difficult things.



"As an Opposition, when we have got a Government which hasn't even done a three-year spending review, is there more we could do? I don't think there is.



"I think we have gone further and faster than any Opposition in British political history in saying here are tough things that need to be done and also we have said we accept that is still not enough."



Mr Cameron attacked Labour for attempting to turn the election into a choice between investment or cuts: "All they do is talk about what people's plans for cuts are and pretend that they are going on investing.



"It is a complete con. Whoever wins the election, there will have to be cuts."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor