Redwood calls for drastic tax cuts for Britain's top earners

Rightwinger's sweeping proposals are in sharp contrast to his leader's safety-first approach
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Indy Politics

John Redwood, the latest recruit to Michael Howard's inner circle, has called for drastic tax cuts far beyond those proposed in official party policy, including halving marginal income tax for most of those who now pay the top rate.

In a new book, published this week to coincide with the Tory party conference, Mr Redwood urged: "The Government should aim to have in place, by the end of the first Parliament, a standard 20 per cent rate on most earned income and all company income; no capital gains tax on gains of over two years; no stamp duties on tradable securities; no stamp duties above 2 per cent on anything; and no fixed duties on vehicle ownership. This would make the United Kingdom far and away the most attractive location throughout Europe for business and enterprise activity; and would reinforce the success of other economic policies."

His sweeping proposals are in stark contrast to the caution urged by the Conservative leader, who is anxious not to appear to be making unbelievable promises that an incoming Tory government would not be able to keep.

Interviewed in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, Mr Howard said that his first aim was to avert the tax rises that he believes a third-term Labour government would impose.

He added: "Nobody's talking about spending cuts, but we are talking about the pace at which spending will increase. Now, you say we haven't promised to cut income tax. That's true. And the reason why is that if I made that promise today, I couldn't be sure I could keep it."

Mr Redwood, who is now the party's spokesman for deregulation, in charge of cutting red tape, pointed out yesterday that when he wrote the book, Singing the Blues, he was entitled to express his own opinions, as a backbench MP. "But now I'm a loyal frontbencher," he added

This will be seized by Labour as evidence that a Tory government would threaten public services through tax cutting. Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, claimed yesterday: "The only guarantee you will get from the Conservatives is big cuts for the police, hospitals, transport and schools."

It comes at a time when Mr Howard will be under pressure from anxious Tory activists to move further to the right, to ward off the threat from the UK Independence Party, which kept up its attack yesterday after its candidate in last week's Hartlepool by-election had beaten the Tories into a humiliating fourth place.

Delegates at UKIP's annual meeting in Bristol yesterday voted to stand candidates in seats across Britain at the next election, rejecting a move that they should concentrate only on seats where the sitting MP is pro-European.

While UKIP is unlikely to capture many Commons seats, its intervention could put severe pressure on Tory MPs such as Michael Howard himself and the Shadow Chancellor, Oliver Letwin, who have small majorities over the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Howard wants the dominant theme of the Tory conference, which starts tomorrow, to be that a Conservative government would mean "less talk - more action".

As Tory representatives arrive in Bournemouth for the conference, they will be handed a written statement from Mr Howard about his planned "Timetable for Action".

During the week, frontbenchers will be required to make specific declarations about what they would do in their first month in office, if the Conservatives were returned to power. The promises will be collated and published as a blueprint for the government's first 30 days.

CONFERENCE WEEK: THE INSIDER'S GUIDE

It's a sight you may never see again: the Conservative Party, in its role as Her Majesty's Opposition, gathering at the Bournemouth International Centre for an annual conference under the leadership of Michael Howard. Next year, the BIC won't be the same: this will be the last political event held there before it closes for alterations. As to how long Michael Howard will continue to be Conservative leader, or how long the Conservatives will be the official opposition - who can say?

Standing ovations

Bet none of the speakers this year can rouse a reception to match the 17 standers that punctuated Iain Duncan Smith's leader's speech last year, bless him.

Soundbite of the week

Bet no one can top last year's ringing declaration from Iain Duncan Smith: "The quiet man is here to stay, and he's turning up the volume." Bless.

Unpersons

Don't believe the official programme when it tells you that John Bercow, Damian Green and Julie Kirkbride (pictured) are appearing on the platform. Michael Howard axed them from the front bench in his reshuffle, after the programme had been printed.

On the fringe

Seven years of electoral misfortune have not diminished the number of things Tories want to talk to one another about. There are many, many fringe meetings, but the one that is sure to draw the curious will be the Wavework/C Change event on Tuesday evening, when handsome Michael Gove will speak on "Making Politics Sexy - How to Turn On the Voters."

Oxymoron of the week

William Hague is hosting a buffet for the "Conservative Way Forward". Yes, it says "forward", not "backward". In a similarly forward-looking vein, Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party (pictured) will give a talk on "Ulster - the Way Ahead".

Your buck up! call

And another person who is in tune with the times, Ann Widdecombe, will talk on "Putting a Stop to Political Correctness". Cool!

Money to burn?

A 15-minute taxi ride from the BIC will take you to the Guildhall Tavern, Poole, where at 11.30 on Tuesday the United & Cecil Club are holding a seafood and Chablis lunch, with Shadow Defence Secretary Nicholas Soames as guest of honour. Crab thermidor, filet de fletan and moules mariniere or filet de boeuf sauce au porto et champignons will be the main course, at £49 a head.

The saddest appeal

John Major, who used to be Prime Minister, has written to all conference delegates pleading with them to buy some raffle tickets. Proceeds from the draw will go to the Superannuation Fund for retired Conservative agents. "Regrettably, most of the fund's pensioners have received no increase in pension in the last five years. When many of them retired, salaries were low and they (or their widows) are now struggling. Over the years, they gave a lifetime of loyalty, devotion, time and sheer hard work to our party for very small financial reward," Mr Major wrote. Oh yes.

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