A Privateers Manifesto!

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday launched the Labour Party’s election manifesto – which pledged to cut billions from public spending, whilst ‘securing the recovery’.

Brown launched the manifesto at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital PFI project in Edgbaston.

He boasted that there had been over 100 NHS PFI projects under Labour, like the PFI project at Queen Elizabeth, adding that he would continue Public Private Partnerships in education, health and public transport and infrastructure.

‘We are in the future business, we are building a future fair for all,’ he said.

It was put to Brown that the Queen Elizabeth PFI project cost £600 million, but the taxpayer would have to pay back £2.5 billion.

The manifesto contains a pledge that: ‘if we don’t meet our guarantees, for example on waiting lists, the NHS will fund you to go private.’

Brown would not give an outright commitment not to raise VAT after the election.

The Labour manifesto pledges not to extend VAT to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers and public transport fares.

Brown said: ‘Reform cannot stand still – not least because we need to get more value and delivery from public services in a period of public spending constraint.’

Among other pledges in the manifesto is a guarantee of ‘96,000 prison places’ by 2014 whilst: ‘To help protect frontline services, we will find greater savings in legal aid and the courts system – increasing the use of successful “virtual courts’’ which move from arrest, to trial, to sentencing in hours rather than weeks or months . . .

‘Asset confiscation will be a standard principle in sentencing, extended from cash to houses and cars.’

The manifesto also pledged: ‘We will end for good the concept of a life on benefit by offering all those unemployed for more than two years work they must accept.’

Buried in the lengthy manifesto document of around 100 pages, is a page headed, ‘Securing Britain’s future’.

It said: ‘We will protect frontline public services while meeting our commitment to halve the deficit over the next four years . . .

‘The Manifesto reflects the tough choices that we will make to secure Britain’s future in a way that is fair to all:

• ‘Tough choices for £15 billion efficiency savings in 2010-11.

• ‘Tough choices on cutting government overheads: £11 billion of further operational efficiencies and other cross-cutting savings to streamline government will be delivered by 2012-13.

• ‘Tough choices on pay: action to control public-sector pay including a one per cent cap on basic pay uplifts for 2011-12 and 2012-13, saving £3.4 billion a year, and new restrictions on senior pay-setting.

• ‘Tough decisions on public sector pensions to cap the taxpayers’ liability – saving £1 billion a year.

• ‘Tough choices on spending: £5 billion already identified in cuts to lower priority spending.

• ‘Tough choices on welfare: our reforms will increase fairness and work incentives, including £1.5 billion of savings being delivered.

• ‘Tough choices on assets: £20 billion of asset sales by 2020.

• Tough choices on tax: a bonus tax, reduced tax relief on pensions for the best off, a new 50p tax rate on earnings over £150,000 and one penny on National Insurance Contributions.’