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Britain's Labor Party launches election manifesto with pledge to freeze basic tax

2010-04-13 08:00 BJT

Special Report: Britain General Election |

LONDON, April 12 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched his party's general election manifesto on Monday, with a pledge to freeze the basic rate of tax for five years.

Brown, who is seeking a historic fourth term in office for his Labor Party, said at the manifesto launch in Birmingham: "New Labor is once again ready to answer the call of the future."

"Our manifesto is not written in the past tense, it is written in the future tense," he said.

"We will rebuild the economy to secure the recovery and invest in future growth and jobs. We will renew our society to further strengthen the communities that bind our country together," he added.

The manifesto contained a promise not to change the higher rate tax of 40 pence in the pound, and the newly-introduced top rate of 50 pence in the pound for those earning more than 150,000 pounds (about 225,000 U.S. dollars) a year.

There was also a pledge not to extend value added tax (VAT), which is a national sales tax, to food, children's clothes, books, newspapers and transport. However, there was no pledge not to increase VAT. "We have made no pledge on the VAT rate," said Brown.

Foreigners who work for public services will have to be able to speak English, the manifesto said.

Police reforms would allow badly performing chief constables, who run the police in individual districts throughout the country, to be kicked out if they fail to deliver improvements within three years.

Hospitals would be allowed to take over under-performing ones, and this would also apply to police forces, Brown told the manifesto launch meeting.

Touching on the political scandals that have made politicians and politics unpopular, Brown vowed to allow voters to recall members of parliament if they break the law.

He also pledged to create a democratic House of Lords (the British parliament's second chamber), which still contains some hereditary members, and to allow a vote on introducing voting for 16 year olds, currently the voting threshold is 18.

Other manifesto pledges included:

-- increasing the leave from work for fathers of newly-born babies from two weeks to four weeks;

-- increasing the minimum wage, which currently stands at 5.80 pounds per hour (about 7.70 dollars). However no figure was given for what the wage would be;

-- introducing a green investment bank;

-- building high-speed railways;

-- making Internet broadband available to everybody;

-- creating 1 million more skilled jobs.