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Hague: You've Paid the Tax , So Where's All the Money Gone?

As I travel around Britain, I meet thousands of people who are paying more taxes under Labour: savers who are being clobbered by Labour's stealth taxes on pensions; hard-working families who have been hit hard by Labour's stealth taxes on marriages and mortgages; rural people who simply cannot afford Labour's stealth taxes on cars; and small businessmen and women for whom Labour's stealth taxes on business make all the difference between success and failure.

And these same people, who are paying more taxes, also ask me where all the money is going because they know that their public services are getting worse not better. Parents who know that there is a teacher crisis at their children's school; patients who know that they are waiting longer for an operation; women who know that our streets are less safe because there are fewer police; commuters who know that our roads are more congested and our train system has collapsed.

So the people of Britain don't want more deceitful tax promises and self-congratulatory nonsense from the Prime Minister. They know that they have paid Labour's taxes, now they want to know where all the money has gone.

Conservatives have listened to these millions of people who expected Tony Blair to deliver on his election promises and feel so bitterly let down. Today, we begin this election year by speaking for them.

Our message is their message: you've paid the tax, so where's all the money gone?

You've paid the tax.

Tony Blair promised families before the last election that 'New Labour is not about high taxes on ordinary families' (1997 Labour Manifesto).

Tell that to the young family I met in Gravesend. The parents don't earn a fortune, but they're proud that they can raise their children without relying on state handouts. They've been hit hard by Labour's stealth taxes - taxes that are taking £670 off a typical working family; taxes that have hit the poorest fifth of families hardest.

That family in Gravesend have paid the tax. Now they want to know: where are the teachers?

With all those stealth taxes, the last thing these parents expect is a crisis in teaching. Yet school after school around the country is facing chronic teacher shortages. Some classes are being cancelled. This comes on top of rising class sizes in secondary schools.

The millions of parents of this country who voted Labour at the last election didn't think they were voting for a four-day school week and bigger class sizes. They feel betrayed because they believed Tony Blair when he told them that 'education, education, education' would be his priority.

You've paid the tax.

Before the last election, Tony Blair also promised the British people that he had 'no plans to increase tax at all' (Financial Times, 21st September 1995). Tell that to the small businessmen I met in Nottinghamshire who work long hours to make their businesses profitable, who already spend hours complying with extra Government regulation and who simply cannot afford Labour's stealth taxes on petrol and shops and energy and enterprise.

Those Nottinghamshire businessmen have paid the tax. Now they want to know: so where are the police?

Like everyone else, the last thing these small businessmen thought a Prime Minister who promised to be tough on crime would cut would be the police. But now they know that police numbers have fallen, police morale has collapsed and crime is rising. And it's not just shops and businesses that are the target of the criminal - violent crime is up too.

The millions of people who voted Labour at the last election didn't do so expecting that they would then live in greater fear of crime, trapped in their homes after dark by what amounts to a curfew on the law-abiding majority.

You've paid the tax.

Tony Blair said just months before the last election that 'the programme of the Labour Party does not imply any tax increases at all' (World at One, 8th January 1997). Tell that to the couple I met in Manchester who are saving a little each year because they want the modest dignity of some independence from the state in old age, and who see their hard-earned savings being eaten away by Labour's massive stealth tax on pensions.

That Manchester couple have paid the tax. Now they want to know: where is their hospital operation?

The one thing that couple might have hoped for in return for their higher tax bills was lower waiting lists and a better NHS. After all, that was Tony Blair's number one promise at the last election. Four years later, the waiting lists are 55,000 higher and the NHS is in a permanent state of crisis.

The millions of people who voted Labour at the last election didn't think they were voting for a Prime Minister who would put the cynical political priorities of the Labour Party before the medical needs of the health service.

You've paid the tax.

Tony Blair said before the election that he wanted 'people to pay lower taxes' (LIFFE, 16th September 1996). Tell that to the rural people in my own constituency for whom the car is not a luxury but a necessity, or the mothers and fathers around the country who depend on their car to do the weekly shopping and pick up the children from school, and who are now paying the highest fuel prices in Western Europe because of Labour's stealth tax increases on petrol and diesel.

All these people who use their car have paid the tax. Now they want to know: so where are the trains?

With all the extra taxes being heaped on the motorist, they assumed that there would be a big improvement in our roads and public transport. But roads have deteriorated, congestion has increased and our railways are in the grips of a crisis.

You've paid the tax, so where are the teachers? Where are the police? Where's your operation? Where are the trains? Where's all the money gone?

Tony Blair cannot escape these questions that millions of families want him to answer.

Just to make sure, we've put them on a thousand posters all around the country. We've even projected it on to his beloved Dome - the biggest poster site in the history of advertising to draw attention to the biggest waste of money in the history of Britain.

Let Tony Blair be in no doubt. We will put Labour's high taxes and failure to deliver at the centre of our election campaign.

We will show where the money has really gone - on a huge increase in the cost of Whitehall, on a Handover Plan to join the euro, on the obscene waste of the Dome, and on a comprehensive failure to reform our welfare system and transform our public services.

And in the coming weeks we will set out the plans of the next Conservative Government to reduce taxes.

Our priority will be those who have been hit hardest by Labour's stealth taxes. Pensioners and savers. Small businessmen and women. Hard-working families.

Labour Governments always think that more taxes lead to better public services. This Labour Government has tested that mistaken theory to destruction.

The next Conservative Government will show that the way to improve our public services is to accompany extra investment with real reform - so that the money is not wasted, that it does go to the classroom and the hospital operating theatre and front-line policeman

And day in day out, between now and polling day, in campaigns such as the one we launch today, we will relentlessly expose the broken promises, high taxes and failure to deliver of a Prime Minister who, to borrow from that old song, has become The Great Pretender.

Tony Blair, the Great Pretender, who pretends that he hasn't increased taxes when every hard-working family knows that they are paying more tax under Labour.

The Great Pretender, who pretends that the NHS is improving when anyone who uses it and works in it knows that it is in a state of permanent crisis.

The Great Pretender, who pretends that our schools are getting better when parents worry about their children being sent home because of the shortage of teachers.

The Great Pretender, who pretends to be tough on crime when its clear to everyone that there are fewer police and more criminals on our streets.

People aren't fooled anymore by Tony Blair, the Great Pretender.

They have paid the tax and they want to know where's all the money gone.

That is what a great part of the next election is going to be all about.

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