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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album