Labour MPs were accused of going on a pre-election advertising
spree this week after government departments revealed big increases in
their ad budgets in the past year.
The Tories and the Liberal Democrats attacked the Government, claiming
that it was using taxpayers' money to enhance its image.
The criticism came as five big Whitehall departments disclosed that they
planned to spend more in this financial year than in the previous
The Department of Social Security will boost its budget from pounds 2.7
million to pounds 11.3 million, a big jump on the pounds 3.6 million
spent by the Tory government in the year before the 1997 election.
The Department for Education and Employment will see its budget rise
from pounds 11.9 million last year to pounds 15.1 million.
The Home Office will spend pounds 11.1 million this year, up from pounds
5.6 million last year and double the pounds 5.2 million spent by the
last Tory government.
At the Department of Trade and Industry, the ad budget will rise from
pounds 1.7 million to pounds 4.5 million this year. The Tories spent
pounds 3.1 million.
John Prescott's Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
will see its adspend grow from pounds 12 million to pounds 14 million,
double the 96-97 figure.
The figures suggest the Blair administration's total spend will exceed
the previous pounds 113 million budget.
David Willetts, the Tory spokesman on social security, said: 'It is
questionable whether the Government should spend so much more on
advertising in an election year than in other years.'
Ministers denied the charge, saying the figures varied each year as
different campaigns came on stream.