Parties argue about public spending

10 May 01
Ideological differences between the main political parties on how to improve public services emerged this week as the general election campaign finally got under way.

11 May 2001

As the public sector quickly became a central election issue the parties said they would put clear choices before voters in areas such as education, health and transport.

Labour defended its record over the past four years by admitting there was a need for increased levels of investment.

Chancellor Gordon Brown, who has been criticised for sticking to Conservative spending plans for two years, said there would be more capital investment if Labour were re-elected. The numbers of those in higher education would increase and the New Deal would be extended, he said.

As in the 1997 campaign, education will be a central issue for Labour. 'Education will receive the priority it requires in the next parliament,' said Brown.

The Conservatives will try to exploit Labour's record on education and health. They will emphasise bringing in greater private sector funding for the NHS.

Bernard Jenkin, Tory shadow transport spokesman, said they would also fight the election on the government's transport policies.

'The big thrust of our attack on Labour is that they have failed to improve public services,' he said.

The party will launch a transport manifesto on May 14, just days after the main manifesto, outlining the party's opposition to congestion charging.

As well as their traditional concerns, the Liberal Democrats plan to emphasise law and order in their manifesto, to be published in the next few days.

They will argue for 6,000 more police officers and emphasise their difference from the Tories by calling for tax increases rather than cuts.

Targeting seats in the capital, the Lib Dems will reiterate their opposition to the partial privatisation of the London Underground.

The Scottish National Party said it would make the Private Finance Initiative an election issue and make the delivery of 'sustainable investment in public services' a central plank of its campaign.

Plaid Cymru plans to unveil its manifesto on May 14.


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