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How did Labour do on its 2005 manifesto pledges?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 12 April 2010

Today Labour launches its election manifesto - but has it lived up to the promises it made last time around? FactCheck went to work on three of the key pledges in the 2005 Labour party manifesto.

Gordon Brown on manifesto launch day (Credit: Getty)

"We will not raise the basic or top rates of income tax in the next Parliament."
Labour Manifesto, 2005

Whoops. In 2005, the top rate of income tax was 40p in the pound. But a new 50p rate for people earning over £150,000 a year kicked in at the start of this financial year.

This tax band, brought in to help rebalance the books after the credit crunch meltdown, affects far fewer people than the 40p rate. But it means the highest earners have a higher tax rate than they did at the start of the parliament.

The basic rate went the other way - 22p in 2005 before being cut to 20p by Brown in his final budget as chancellor. The 10p starter rate of tax is no more.

Ed Miliband, author of the Labour's 2010 Manifesto, said on BBC Radio today: "We had to make a decision which we didn't foresee in the manifesto around the 50p income tax rate, but it is certainly our firm intention to keep the promises, keep the proposals that we're putting forward in this [2010] manifesto."

"We will put [the EU constitutional Treaty] to the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a ‘Yes’ vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe."

FactCheck has covered this issue before, and it is not as straightforward as at first it seems. The 'Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe' was signed in October 2004, and it was this treaty to which the Labour manifesto referred.

But it was rejected by France and the Netherlands and thus abandoned. So Labour can plausibly claim that they did not break their promise.

But a Reform Treaty – also known as the Lisbon Treaty – was created instead, and Gordon Brown signed it in December 2007. The Conservatives and others claim that the Lisbon Treaty is sufficiently similar to the original one as to make no difference. So who is right?

The European Union introduced a mandate in the summer of 2007 which said: "The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called 'constitution', is abandoned."

But a House of Commons research paper states that: "The content of the treaty, though not its structure, is similar in a great many respects to the EU Constitution." Open Europe, a think tank that calls for radical reform of the EU, has calculated that the original Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty are 90 per cent the same.

While technically no promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was ever made, it could be argued that the spirit of the manifesto means that Labour should offer a vote on it. But equally it could be argued that with the constitutional implications of the first Treaty removed, the promise has not been broken.  

"By the end of 2008, no NHS patient will have to wait longer than a maximum of 18 weeks from the time they are referred for a hospital operation by their GP until the time they have that operation." 

The King's Fund, an independent health policy charity, has just published a review of the NHS between 1997 and 2010. It concludes that:

"Since 1997, there have been major and sustained reductions in waiting times for most hospital treatments. Now most patients are seen, given tests and treated within 18 weeks of referral by their GP. More progress is needed in some specialties and services which are not included in the targets. Sustaining short waiting times might prove challenging as funds tighten in the future."

Labour has acheived this pledge with well over 90 per cent of patients being treated within the 18 week target set out in the 2005 manifesto.

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