HL Deb 17 February 2000 vol 609 cc173-4WA
Lord Lamont of Lerwick

asked Her Majesty's Government.

On what basis the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 3 February at Question Time in the House of Commons claimed that Lord Lamont of Lerwick had described the Conservative Party tax guarantee as "irresponsible". [HL909]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I refer the noble Lord to pages 184–185, in the section entitled "Disagreements with the PM on tax", of his own bookIn Office

"At a morning press conference … I was sitting next to John Major and whispered to him … that we should not make any commitment because the tax burden was difficult to control. Nonetheless Major insisted on saying that in the course of the next Parliament the tax burden would be reduced. That would have required a drastic reduction in the size and role of the state I was somewhat uneasy about this promise, particularly given John Major's views on public spending.

At another press conference John was asked about the 20 pence tax band in the Budget, and he promised that the Government would expand the band of income to which this applied year by year. This commitment to cut taxes every year was certainly something that no party in power could responsibly promise. He and I had in fact discussed this very point, and I had emphasised that no government could possibly commit to cutting taxes every year. I was even more surprised that someone who had been opposed to the principle of tax cuts was now prepared to promise them every year."