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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing