Sir Ming's fanfare for tax changes

SIR Menzies Campbell yesterday pledged that a Liberal Democrat government would not slap extra taxes on workers, but would reform the taxation service to make it “fairer, simpler, and greener".

By Graham Dines

SIR Menzies Campbell yesterday pledged that a Liberal Democrat government would not slap extra taxes on workers, but would reform the taxation service to make it “fairer, simpler, and greener.”

He was giving his end of rally speech to the Liberal Democrats in Brighton - and in an attempt to give the 65 year-old leader a make-over, Lib Dem strategists mimicked the hype at Labour Party conferences for Tony Blair by pumping up the volume of a sound-and-light show depicting Sir Menzies's life outside politics - as an Olympic athlete, lawyer and campaigner.

Sir Menzies insisted the new green tax package approved by the conference on Tuesday would be the centre of his party's message to voters. “Income tax cuts for hard-working people; the polluter paying the price; taxing wealth not work.”

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He claimed: “This is the politics of substance; it's fairness in action; it's environmentalism in action; it's liberalism in action.

“We will not raise the overall level of taxation but we will reform the tax system so that it is fairer, simpler and greener.''

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Sir Menzies said his was the only major party prepared to be open about its tax plans - and honest about the impact they would have.

More than two million of the lowest earners would stop paying income tax at all, he pointed out, the basic rate would drop to 20p and higher rate only affect salaries over £50,000.

“We'll take over two million of our lowest earners out of income tax altogether - money back in the pockets of the poorest working families. We will reward ambition and aspiration - not penalise effort.”

He conceded some people would have to pay more, he said, insisting the party would not hide that. “Those who can afford to make a greater contribution should do so.”

But he warned everyone in the country would have to pay more if they were not prepared to change their behaviour to save the planet from global warming, he said.

“It means taxing aviation properly. It means fuel duty going up with inflation. It means paying more for the cars that pollute the most. If we are serious about the environment, only action will suffice.”

Sir Menzies launched into Tony Blair, saying Labour had squandered the chance to change Britain since 1997. “After three election victories, Labour has failed.

“The gap between rich and poor is wider than at any point under Margaret Thatcher. We have higher taxes, but little improvement in public services.

“Millions of pensioners remain consigned to poverty: two thirds of them women. Hard-working families are crippled by debt.

“Carbon emissions are rising. And now hospital wards are closing, doctors and nurses are losing their jobs. This is the domestic legacy of the Blair-Brown Government.”

Switching the emphasis to the Conservatives and their new leader, he called demanded David Cameron make a double apology -- for backing the Iraq war and for his part in writing the last Conservative manifesto.

“Now Mr Cameron expresses his reservations about Britain's foreign policy. You, Mr Cameron, were in the government lobby backing military action against Iraq. You should apologise for supporting that war.

“And while you're at it, Mr Cameron, you should apologise for the last Tory manifesto, which you wrote - one of the most reactionary, unpleasant, right-wing manifestos of modern times.''

Sir Menzies said his objective was “nothing less” than to complete the transformation of the Liberal Democrats from a party of opposition into a party of government. “Some people yearn for the years gone by; some mourn for what is past. But not me.

“I hunger for what is to come - for what is possible. We should have no fear of the future. Rather, we should relish the challenges ahead.”

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