In a Commons debate, the Tories argued a new code was needed to ensure "impartiality and accuracy" in campaigns run by Whitehall departments as part of a plan to restore public trust in politics.
Francis Maude, the Shadow Cabinet member responsible for drawing up the Conservative Opposition's agenda for government, said: "Advertising costs have spiralled. The Government has spent £800 million on advertising in the past five years alone. The annual spend has quadrupled since Labour came to power."
Maude claimed the high adspend was not an "overhang" from the Blair era, because the budget had risen by four times the rate of inflation since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister last year.
But Labour ministers argued the spend should be welcomed because it had saved lives through campaigns on issues such as smoking, drink-driving and road safety.
A call by the Tories for the Committee on Standards in Public Life to draw up a new code for government advertising immediately was rejected.
- Perspective, page 19.