LONDON (Alliance News) - The Conservatives and Labour traded blows on Wednesday over the tax plans of the two parties, with Ed Miliband's pledge to abolish the UK's non-domicile rule attacked by Chancellor George Osborne, as Labour got a pledge of support from the Scottish National Party and a business group gave its backing to Tony Blair's comments on Tuesday about the risks posed by an in-out European Union referendum.
Labour leader Ed Miliband on Wednesday is due to a give a speech in which he will outline plans for abolish the non-dom rule, which allows wealthy individuals to limit the tax paid on earnings made outside the UK, with a claim that the rule makes Britain "an offshore tax haven".
Miliband will claim the non-dom rule is not used by any other major economy and has cost the country hundreds of millions of pounds per year. The move is expected to trigger claims that some of the 116,000 non-doms based in Britain will leave the country.
Chancellor George Osborne accused Labour of "tinkering around the edges", as both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats declined to follow Miliband's lead. Osborne said the "small print" of the Labour policy makes it clear the party has no intention of abolishing the non-dom rule. He noted the rule would remain in place for non-doms who stay in the UK for no more than two or three years.
That caused Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, to clarify the Labour plans, saying that no new non-doms will be allowed from April 2016, existing non-doms will be given a short period in which to settle their affairs, and non-doms in the UK for a genuinely temporary, short period of time would be able to retain the status.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, underlined her support for Miliband at a televised debate on Tuesday, offering to help Miliband get into Number 10 but leaving open the possibility that her party may call for another independence referendum after 2016.
Speaking in a debate between the four main party leaders in Scotland, Sturgeon said her party "will fight to keep David Cameron out of Downing Street", adding that she was "offering to help make Ed Miliband prime minister".
Amid polling consistently suggesting a hung parliament after the vote in May, much of the focus of the debate was on coalition possibilities. While Sturgeon made it clear she did not want to enter into a coalition with Labour, she made it clear she would vote to bring down a Tory government.
She called on Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy to make the same pledge, but he rebuffed the SNP offer for support, saying his party did need help from the nationalists.
Meanwhile, a business group gave its backing to the warning issued on Tuesday by former Prime Minister Tony Blair about the impact a referendum on the UK's European Union membership could have on the country.
Business for New Europe, the advisory council which includes BT Group PLC Chairman Michael Rake and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC Chairman Philip Hampton, said a vote to quit the EU could force some companies that use the UK as a European base to leave. The group also warned businesses will hold back investment in Britain owing to the uncertainty caused by the prospect of the referendum.
Elsewhere, the Tories said they would give the NHS in England "whatever" it needs to head off a predicted funding gap. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said this would be "more or less" the GBP8 billion health chiefs believe may be needed.
The pledge comes a day after an analysis by the Financial Times which suggested the funding gap is significantly higher than originally predicted.
The Liberal Democrats stepped up the attacks on their Conservative coalition partners, claiming tens of thousands of jobs would have to be cut in order to pay for the tax reductions promised by Chancellor George Osborne.
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader, said the Tories would have to cut 10,000 police officers, 28,000 carers and 25,000 military personnel to pay for the cuts, claiming the poorest would "bear the heaviest burden". David Cameron accused Clegg of "running away from his record".
By Sam Unsted; email@example.com; @SamUAtAlliance
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