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Balls attacks Byers over IHT call

Treasury economic secretary Ed Balls has attacked Stephen Byers’ call for inheritance tax to be scrapped as part of a co-ordinated Treasury offensive against the leading Blairite.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Balls said Byers’ proposal was unfunded and uncosted and labelled it a “short-term sectional gesture”.

The move comes in conjunction with a national newspaper article by Chancellor Gordon Brown warning against “promising unfunded tax cuts” and “resisting any return to short-termist gesture politics”.

Byers recently called for inheritance tax to be scrapped, claiming it was “a penalty on hard work, thrift and enterprise”, and suggested extra taxes on environmentally harmful activities to make up the 3.3bn shortfall. Earlier this year, Byers, along with prominent Blairite Alan Milburn, criticised Brown’s pension credit and urged the Government not to water down Turner’s proposals.

The feud again shows potential splits in the Labour Party around financial services in the run-up to next year’s comprehensive spending review.

Balls said: “We have seen both from Stephen Byers and the Tories proposals for large unfunded and uncosted tax proposals. It seems to me that you cannot have a serious debate unless you are willing to say where you are going to pay for these measures.”

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