Conservatives launch 'British dream' manifesto

The Conservatives have launched their general election manifesto, promising that Britain could do "much better".

Headlining are the pledges of "more police, cleaner hospitals, lower taxes, school discipline, controlled immigration and accountability".

But, although £4 billion of tax cuts are promised, there is no detail on where they will fall.

In his foreword to the manifesto, Conservative leader Michael Howard said that despite Britain "having everything going for it.far too many people are being held back from achieving their full potential".

Mr Howard claimed that hard working families had been ignored by Labour and "let down by a Government that has lost touch with them".

He said that people all across the country are worried about hospital infections, literacy and discipline in school. Mr Howard claimed that in many communities law abiding citizens "walk in fear" and added that the immigration system is "out-of-control" and encouraging people smuggling.

The Conservative leader said that his party would promote "fair play", lower taxes and give individuals more control over their lives.

In a sign that taxes are to play a large role in the election campaign, the manifesto opens with the Conservatives pledge of "value for money and lower taxes" in which they promise a reduction of bureaucracy and Government borrowing and lower taxes.

Pensions are also a key focus with the promise to increase the state pension in line with earnings. Future pensioners would be encouraged to save with new Lifetime Savings Accounts - topped up by government - and employers would be urged to make pension schemes opt out rather than opt in.

School discipline is also prominent in the manifesto, with heads and governors given full control over admissions and expulsions. There is also the pledge that money will follow the pupil, with parents able to send their child to any school where the fees are the same or lower than the cost of state education.

The Conservatives also do not back away from their asylum policies - which have come in for severe criticism from other parties - saying "its not racist to impost limits on immigration".

The manifesto promises an annual limit on immigration and withdrawal from the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees with the "objective" of taking a fixed number of refugees from the UNHCR, rather than accepting applications in country.

Despite the high profile that asylum and immigration have been given in the campaign, their pledges only take up one page of the manifesto.

But Labour's general election co-ordinator Alan Milburn said that the manifesto confirmed that the Conservatives still stood for privilege and the past.

Mr Milburn said: "This is a new Manifesto from the same old Tories. It confirms they still stand for privilege not opportunity in our country.

"It confirms they still want to take money out of state schools and the NHS to benefit a few at the expense of the many. Above all else, it confirms they would take Britain back to the failures of the past.

"By promising to tax less, spend more, borrow less - all at the same time, with the same money - the Tories are repeating the mistakes John Major made in the early 1990s. It would produce the same result - public finances out of control and inflation and interest rates through the roof. It is a risk for every hard working family and pensioner. It is an economic disaster waiting to happen."

He claimed that the Conservatives' sums "simply don't add up" as they make spending commitments whilst at the same time planning to cut £35 billion from Labour's spending plans.