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David Jones: Only the Welsh Conservatives can deliver

Speech by David Jones AM, Welsh Conservative

Spokesman for Finance to the Welsh Conservatives Spring Conference

Madam chairman, ladies and gentleman,

I am proud to stand here today to hail a great new Labour success story.

Taxation.

Before he came to power, Tony Blair said he had "no plans to increase taxation at all". That statement came as a bitter disappointment to those who knew and loved Old Labour, those who harked back to the good old labour days when Denis Healey said that he "would tax the rich until the pips squeaked". Fortunately for fans of old Labour everywhere, Tony Blair was not as good as his word.

Since Labour came to power in 1997, the annual tax bill for the united kingdom has increased from £270 billion to £380 billion. That is the equivalent of £36 extra per week for every man, woman and child in the country. For a person who had no plans to increase tax that amounts to a pretty considerable change of plan.

Now, the radical difference between new labour and old labour so far as taxation is concerned is that, whereas old labour were up-front about squeezing hard-working families and demanded money with menaces, new labour prefer to pick their pockets when they are not looking. New Labour must claim total credit for the introduction of the concept of the stealth tax. Thus, we have seen stealth taxes on insurance premiums, air travel and, most shamefully of all, pension funds.

At a time when many pension funds are in danger of collapse and most pensioners and prospective pensioners are deeply worried about their financial security, Gordon Brown continues to tax funds at the rate of £5 billion per annum - that is £30 billion since new labour came to power. New labour have done many shameful things in their six years of government but the raid on pension funds is arguably the most shameful.

But now, after years of taxation by stealth, it appears that new labour may have decided to opt for a more direct approach. Coming soon to a pay packet near you, we have the much-heralded, long-awaited increase in national insurance contributions.

NI contributions will be going up by 1 penny in the pound from April - that is the equivalent to a 3p increase in the basic rate of tax. For someone on £20,000 a year this amounts to an extra £15 tax per month.

Now when this was put to Carwyn Jones, who is arguably one of the brighter members of the assembly government, he said that "people would not notice" the deductions from their pay packets.

Quite obviously, Carwyn is still in new labour mode and still thinks that people don't notice when they are actually getting poorer.

He also made the remarkable comment that the reason that they would not notice that money was being deducted was because there was an "economic feel good factor in play".

This statement alone must make everybody wonder what planet Carwyn Jones inhabits. With stock markets hitting a seven year low, pay increases barely matching the rate of inflation and manufacturing industry across wales in a state of collapse, to talk of an economic feel good factor smacks either of smugness or of complete dislocation from reality.

Of course Carwyn Jones's problem is one shared by the labour party as a whole. They have got so used to people not complaining about taxation that they think that the process can continue indefinitely and that the electorate will not raise a squeak. Well, Carwyn Jones and his new Labour colleagues are in for a big shock on May 1st.

Because on may day the electorate of Wales will deliver their verdict upon new labour and their high tax, high spending ways. Because by then not only will they have experienced their first slim-line pay packet but also will have received their council tax bills.

and council tax across the length and breadth of wales will be going up faster than the express lift in the empire state building. In Cardiff alone, we will be seeing a 12% increase in council tax.

Now, the assembly government tries to disassociate itself from council tax increases, saying that these are entirely the responsibility of the individual local authorities.

To a certain extent, this may be true, but the truth also is that local authorities are having to find more and more money to implement initiatives that emanate from the assembly itself. For example, Sue Essex never ceases to trumpet her so-called 'free bus pass' initiative, which this year is being extended to all males over the age of 60.

However, everybody knows that there is no such thing as a free bus pass any more that there is such a thing as a free lunch. It has to be paid for somehow and the level of assembly funding for the bus pass project will not cover its total cost. Cardiff alone has to find an additional £2 million to implement the scheme.

Voters will also know that all parties in the assembly, apart from the conservatives, want to see an increase in assembly powers, to include the power to raise taxes by an additional 2p in the pound. In other words, they want welsh people to pay a poll tax for the privilege of being Welsh.

Probably, they think that no-one will notice that either, tax but the fact is that the electorate has woken up to the high spending ways of Labour and the Liberal Democrats and they know that Plaid Cymru in government would be just as bad. To give tax raising powers to any of these people would be like handing a bottle of vodka to a drunken driver.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Welsh electorate has woken up from the labour - spun fantasy that you can raise taxes without pain and that the solution to any problem is to throw money at it.

Conservatives believe in fair taxes and, in exchange for those taxes, the delivery of quality, cost effective services. That is why wherever there is a conservative local authority, services are invariably delivered at lower cost and at greater satisfaction to the taxpayer..

We reject the proposition that Welsh taxpayers should be required to pay even more tax. We stand for the delivery of effective services at a fair price. And before labour deliver the old mantra of "what spending would you cut?", let me say immediately that we would most certainly cut the ludicrous, pompous, wasteful project of the new debating chamber in Cardiff bay.

On may 1st, Welsh voters will have the opportunity of voting for honest, cost-effective government in Wales.

Government that only the Welsh Conservatives can deliver.

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