UK Politics

Harriet Harman: PM's warning on Labour tax rises 'pathetic'

David Cameron

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman has accused David Cameron of "twisting her words" to claim that the opposition plans to raise taxes on middle earners.

The PM had quoted her as saying that "people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes".

At his weekly questions, he said this revealed that Labour policy was "now to put up taxes on middle-income people".

Ms Harman had meant that middle earners should continue to pay more in taxes than lower earners, Labour said.

Mr Cameron was being "pathetic" and indulging in "low politics", Ms Harman told the BBC.

She added that she had not been "flying kites or floating policy ideas", but simply defending the current tax system under which some people pay a 20% rate of tax and others pay a 40% rate.

During a phone-in on LBC radio on Monday, Ms Harman had been asked whether it was fair that wealthier people, who are more likely to pay to use private schools and healthcare services, should contribute more in taxes than lower earners who benefit more from state-funded public services.

Image copyright LBC

She replied by telling the questioner that good public services were "not just for working class people but for middle class people as well".

She added: "I think that actually the idea that there are some things that help people on low incomes and others that help people on middle incomes, yes - I think people on middle incomes should contribute more through their taxes, but actually they need those public services like the transport system."

Mr Cameron told MPs: "Of course we want living standards to recover faster and there are two things you need to do to make that happen - first of all, get more into work and we are getting people into work, and secondly, cut spending so you can cut taxes, which is exactly what we are doing.

"Yesterday Labour announced in an important announcement that it is now their policy to put up taxes on middle-income people."

He said of Mr Miliband: "Perhaps he can get to his feet and tell us which taxes on which people?"

Mr Miliband replied: "I ask the questions and he fails to answer them. The reality is that he has the worst record on living standards of any prime minister in history."

But the PM continued: "That is their policy. The squeezed middle will be squeezed more. Now you need to tell us which people are going to pay which taxes because on this side of the House, we have cut council tax, we have cut petrol duty, we have cut the jobs tax, we have increased the married couples allowance.

"Labour would put a tax on your job, on your mortgage, on your home and on your pension."

A Labour spokesman added: "David Cameron can continue to lie about our position but we will continue to tell the truth about the economy."

Ms Harman later wrote to the prime minister saying it was "utterly clear" that her comments had not been a call for higher taxes.

Speaking on LBC radio, Conservative Party co-chairman Grant Shapps said he would be replying to Ms Harman urging her to "come clean" about Labour's tax plans and to rule out any tax rises on middle earners.

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