LABOUR MANIFESTO: GORDON BROWN PREPARES FOR LAUNCH
Gordon Brown will launch the Labour manifesto on Monday
Labour is preparing to unveil its manifesto, pledging not to raise income tax and more public service reform as it bids for a fourth term in office.
It will include plans which could see under-performing schools, hospitals and police forces taken over by teams from more successful organisations.
And it will pledge English tests for more migrants in public sector jobs.
The Tories say Labour is out of ideas and the Lib Dems say they cannot be trusted to reform tax and politics.
Both parties will unveil their manifestos this week.
In Monday's other election developments:
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has been outlining how he plans to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000
SNP leader Alex Salmond is due to launch his election campaign in Scotland as Scottish Labour unveils its manifesto
A 17-year-old is believed to be the youngest election agent in England
Labour's programme will be launched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the election campaign enters its second week.
He said last week the party's manifesto would include a pledge not to raise the basic rate of income tax from 20p.
The manifesto will pledge not to “extend the scope” of the tax to items which are currently exempt, such as food and baby clothes, but it will not rule out VAT rises in future.
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On public services, it will say underperforming police forces could be managed by more successful ones and chief constables could be sacked if they did not meet minimum standards within three years.
But Labour's manifesto chief Ed Miliband told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that would be only a “last resort if police forces are failing”.
More rights would be offered to parents at schools in England, including allowing them a ballot to change the ethos or leadership of a school.
All migrant workers would have to pass an English language test to work in public sector jobs involving dealing with the public – not just doctors from outside Europe, police officers and teachers as at present.
The manifesto will also pledge that patients in England will get a one-week guarantee to get results from a test for cancer.
The Low Pay Commission would be instructed by the end of the next Parliament to raise the national minimum wage at least in line with average earnings.
Government departments would have to offer a “living wage” to all staff – currently set higher than the minimum wage of £7.60 an hour.
Being only a rough guide, manifestos don't tell you the things that parties don't want to reveal
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There will also be a commitment for a “toddlers' tax credit” from 2012, meaning £4-a-week extra for families with one and two-year-olds.
BBC chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said that many of the pledges appeared to cover policies for England – because they involved powers that had been devolved to Scotland and Wales.
Plans to restrict takeovers of British firms on public interest grounds, after the takeover of Cadbury by US food giant Kraft, and a date for a planned referendum on removing the remaining hereditary peers from the House of Lords will also feature.
Mr Miliband told the BBC: “We are running on this manifesto and we intend to keep it, which is about… how we need to make markets work in the public interest, including financial markets and how we need to reform government as well in order to make our country fairer.”
'Doing it again'
Labour promised not to raise income tax in its 2005 manifesto, but went on to introduce a new 50p tax rate for incomes over £150,000.
Mr Miliband said a “once-in-a-generation” economic crisis had meant they had to raise the top rate of tax adding: “It is certainly our firm intention to keep the promises, keep the proposals we are putting forward in this manifesto.”
He said there would be cuts to “lower priority” areas like legal aid and regeneration schemes and, on public sector pay, said any pay packages above £150,000 would have to be signed off by the chief secretary to the Treasury.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said Labour had promised “fairness and new politics” in 1997, 2001 and 2005: “They are doing it again. If they haven't managed to do it in 13 years, why would anyone believe they are going to do it this time?”
No new ideas from Labour, a very negative campaign, all about attack and trying to scare people
The Lib Dems will launch their manifesto on Wednesday, but Mr Clegg said its pledge to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000 would be the “key” policy and would put £700 back into the pockets of most people.
Conservative leader David Cameron has been visiting a builders' merchant in the Reading West constituency in Berkshire to talk to staff about his party's plans.
They will publish their manifesto on Tuesday, pledging to “join together…to start to fix the economic, social and political problems that threaten the nation”.
The party's pledge to try to block the bulk of Labour's planned rise in National Insurance is expected to be at the heart of its manifesto.
Reports suggest a “stabiliser” to cushion the blow of oil price rises for motorists will also be among the Tories' pledges.
Mr Cameron said: “I think there's a contrast in this campaign, frankly. No new ideas from Labour, a very negative campaign, all about attack and trying to scare people – and very positive, agenda-setting ideas from the Conservatives.”
It follows a row over Labour leaflets claiming the Tories would scrap a guarantee over cancer specialist referrals, which Mr Cameron has called “sick”.