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National Insurance row dominates campaigning

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The row over national insurance continues to dominate the early stages of the election campaign.

Gordon Brown was accused of insulting the intelligence of British business by Sir Stuart Rose, executive chairman of Marks & Spencer and a member of the Prime Minister’s business council.

Sir Stuart, who signed a letter criticising the National Insurance rise, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s unfortunate that we have been dismissed. This is not a political point so much as a point about where tax should be levied.”

Mr Brown said he attached “no blame to business”, but insisted the Conservatives were responsible for misleading them over their plans.

“I say the Conservative Party are misleading them,” he told the Today programme. “I attach no blame to the business community.”

He accused the Tories of having “dreamed up” £12bn of efficiency savings this year to pay for their plans.

“What business hasn’t been told is that we are already putting in £15b of efficiency savings, what they haven’t been told is that £35bn of efficiency savings have been achieved in the last few years,” he said.

Elsewhere in the campaign trail, the Tories will pledge to divert cash from Labour’s community cohesion schemes to pay for youngsters to take part in a civilian “national service”.

Party leader David Cameron will use his first major press conference of the General Election campaign to give more details of plans for a National Citizen Service.

He will hail the offer of two-month summer social action activities such as looking after the elderly as a cure for the “national scandal of all this wasted promise”.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will warn that a Tory government would increase taxes.

Mr Clegg will say it is time for the Conservatives to “come clean” about how they can afford their promised tax breaks without damaging public services.

He will make the comments during a visit to Glasgow to launch his party’s campaign in Scotland.

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