Howard pledges Tories would slash 'wasteful' government adspend

The level of government spending on advertising is to be an issue at the general election, after the Tories pledged to cut the budget to a third of current levels.

Michael Howard has identified the £189 million a year ad budget as an example of "wasteful" spending that a Tory government would halt to enable tax cuts.

A Tory blueprint on "Whitehall waste", drawn up by the business troubleshooter David James, claims adspend has more than tripled since Tony Blair came to power. It says: "In 2003-04, the Government's advertising budget was £189 million and is projected to rise to around £260 million by 2007-08. We recommend reducing expenditure back to 1997-98 levels - that is £60 million."

The Tories said the plan would save £200 million a year by the 2007-08 financial year. Campaigns the Tories would axe include one promoting the New Deal for the unemployed.

Labour said there was no evidence spending would rise to £260 million by 2007-08. One official said: "These so-called 'savings' are pie in the sky. These are factual campaigns which would have to continue under any future administration."