A future Tory government would recruit accountants to draw up the first ever public balance sheet of government spending, according to Michael Portillo.
The shadow chancellor this week announced that if the Conservatives win power, a National Accounts Commission would be set up to produce ‘absolute precision’ in the national accounts.
In a speech to the London Business School he said it was wrong that the government of the day could define what was, or was not, public spending and that the commission could be established to take that task out of politics.
His speech was the latest among the opening salvos in the pre-election war over taxing and spending.
Last week chancellor Gordon Brown and social security secretary Alistair Darling clashed with Portillo and Tory leader William Hague on the issue.
But Portillo intends a National Accounts Commission and a Committee of Economic Advisers to make government spending more transparent and help identify ‘stealth tax’ increases.
While the Committee of Economic Advisers would be made up of distinguished economists, Portillo made clear the National Accounts Commission would be predominately accountants. The commission members would be drawn mainly from the accountancy sector ‘and their appointment would be handled through a transparent procedure’.
The commission would add power to the credibility of government information about the economy and remove from the chancellor ‘any attempt to deceive himself of the balance of tax and spending.’
Last week Gordon Brown acted further in merging the tax and benefit systems to help create a new ‘progressive universalism to move money from the rich to the poor’.
It would reject ‘crude mean testing’ in favour of a more sophisticated system where the tax man gave money back to people too. But Portillo said Labour backed a ‘tax and spend’ policy and made the case for lower personal and indirect taxes as moral imperative.
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