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Hague: Cutting taxes for families is a priority

At his press conference today, the Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon William Hague said:

"In a moment Michael Portillo will take you through the way our tax reductions will benefit some typical families in Britain, but first I want to explain why cutting taxes for families is a priority for the next Conservative Government.

"Over the last four years Britain's families have borne the brunt of Labour's stealth taxes.

"It is easy to see why. Gordon Brown has introduced 45 new stealth taxes during the course of this Parliament. Taxes on marriage, taxes for driving, taxes for wanting to own your own home, taxes for putting a little money aside, even taxes for growing old.

"Taxes are up by £28 billion since 1997, the equivalent of a 10p increase in the basic rate of income tax.

"And it is the poorest families who have been hit hardest. Latest Government figures show that the poorest fifth of Britain's households are actually paying a greater share of their income in tax than they were before.

"So don't let anybody say that this Election doesn't matter.

"It matters a great deal to those on tight family budgets working hard to make ends meet.

"It matters to those for whom a car is not a luxury but a necessity.

"It matters to those who are torn between going out to work to supplement the family income and staying at home to bring up their children.

"And it matters to those who want to plan ahead, to save for the future so that they and those who rely on them can enjoy some independence and security in the future.

"Above all it matters because if Labour are elected again on June 7th, the taxing and the failure to deliver will begin all over again.

"Tony Blair and Gordon Brown plan to spend money faster than taxpayers can earn it. This means they have to find another £10 billion in new taxes, on top of all the taxes they've already raised. But they refuse to say where this extra money is going to come from.

"They could put it all on petrol, their favourite stealth tax. This would raise the price to £6 a gallon.

"They could scrap the ceiling on National Insurance altogether. This would effectively put up income tax to 50% for four million people. Gordon Brown said last week that he 'repudiates' that plan. That sounds like a weasel word to me. It's time for him to be honest with taxpayers, and state clearly what he means.

"Is he saying that he will not raise the National Insurance ceiling above inflation?

"Is he saying he will raise the ceiling to the level of the top rate of income tax, but no further?

"This would mean more income tax for millions of people including teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses earning over £30,000, and an explicit £400 a year tax increase for anyone earning over £34,000.

"Or is he saying he will abolish the National Insurance ceiling completely?

"Which of these is it to be? Time and again I have challenged Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to come clean. Time and again they have refused.

"All Labour will say is that they won't increase income tax rates or extend the scope of VAT. These are weasel words from a party which broke the promises they made on tax before the last Election within months of taking office.

"Well not all parties are the same.

"The Conservatives have put forward £8 billion of tax reductions in our manifesto. Not only will we not raise income tax rates or extend the scope of VAT, we will deliver tax cuts to help savers, pensioners, families and car drivers.

"So we will begin to reverse the most indiscriminate, unfair and hated of Labour's stealth taxes. We will cut fuel duty by 27p per gallon in our first Budget. We will do this because we know that for parents and pensioners, disabled people and those living in the country, driving a car is not an option, it is essential.

"£5 billion of our cuts are cuts in income tax.

"We will abolish taxes on savings and on dividends for all but higher rate taxpayers. Those who want to invest for their retirement or to pass something on to their children and grandchildren should be helped to do the right thing. They've already been taxed for earning their money, they shouldn't be taxed again for saving it.

"We will introduce a transferable tax allowance worth up to £1,000 for married people with young children. We believe in marriage and want to help those who seek time out from work to look after children during their early years.

"We will take a million pensioners out of income tax altogether and cut the taxes of millions more through a £2,000 increase in their personal allowances. This will help to lift many older people out of means tested benefits and all the worry and confusion that come with them.

"This is what is at stake on June 7th.

"At a time when our major competitors in Europe and the United States are reducing the burden of tax on their families and businesses, we can choose to do the same and safeguard future jobs and growth.

"Or we can continue to spend more than we earn, raise taxes and watch employment, investment and trade slowly drift away."

"This is not a question for four years time; it is a choice for now.

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