Portillo tells Brown he is a big spender but not a wise one

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Indy Politics

Michael Portillo, the shadow Chancellor, dismissed Gordon Brown's announcements as a "spending splurge", which proved that he was a "big spender but not a wise spender".

Michael Portillo, the shadow Chancellor, dismissed Gordon Brown's announcements as a "spending splurge", which proved that he was a "big spender but not a wise spender".

Mr Portillo, seeking to paint Mr Brown as an Old Labour-style tax-and-spend Chancellor, claimed taxes had gone up but public services were not getting any better.

Responding to Mr Brown's spending review, he told the Commons it would be greeted with cynicism by the public: "Having broken your promise before, do you really think the solution is to promise again?

"We are all paying for your failure to reform welfare. We're paying for failed policies of interference in education. And we are paying for the Dome. Is it any wonder that Labour taxes more and delivers less. Is it not true that you can only spend the Budget surplus once?" Mr Portillo said.

"People have suffered. Their taxes have gone up but public services have got no better, hospital waiting lists are up, class sizes are bigger and, as far as crime is concerned, today we have had the most appalling figures on violent crime released by this Government. How can this Government spend so much and spend it so badly?"

Mr Portillo insisted the only reason Mr Brown had so much money in his "election war chest" was that he had taken £5bn out of people's pension funds. "This is a Chancellor who for his own glorification is prepared to spend today at the cost of impoverishing generations of pensioners tomorrow," he said.

Labour lost four elections as a party of "high tax and spend" and they only won in 1997 because the party pretended to be committed to Conservative prudence, he said. It was now spending £11,700 every second.

Determined to draw dividing lines between both parties, he said: "We will fight the next election as the low-tax party. Labour has been exposed as the high tax party. Did the Chancellor really think people wouldn't notice they'd been taxed? An extra £670 of tax on a typical hard-working family and you thought they would not notice.

"Taxes on alcohol, taxes on cigarettes and taxes on petrol: the most regressive taxes of all. Labour backbenchers know what's happened. And they know a Chancellor who taxes the poor is no socialist hero."

He challenged Mr Brown: "Isn't your plan just a spending splurge? What happens if the future is not as rosy as you think? Are you committed to these numbers whatever may happen to the economy four years from now?

"What Britain needs is not a splurge of taxpayers' money from a government that people do not rust but a sustainable policy for the long-term."

Replying, the Chancellor ridiculed the Tories' U-turn over the now defunct tax guarantee. The party would have to fight the next general election on a ticket of a "spending cuts guarantee", he told Mr Portillo. "You cannot escape from that. Try as you might you will have to answer around the country which school, which hospital, how many teachers, how many nurses. And when Conservative members go back to their constituencies this weekend they will have to give the answers.

"You lost the last general election for 22 tax rises and you will lose the next election with £16bn worth of spending cuts."

Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokes-man said: "What about the pensioners? With £43bn to spare, the 75p pension rise in March looked miserly - now it looks positively mean."