Hot air, never a scarce commodity in Britain's House of Commons, defied the global slowdown as angry opposition Tory members slammed the Labour government for the alleged use of taxpayers’ money to bolster its image in the run-up to the expected May election.

Not so, protested injured government ministers: the figures simply vary each year as different campaigns are launched. But five major state departments disclosed that they will spend more - both in the current fiscal than last year, and in the period preceding the 1997 election.

The Department of Social Security budget will leap from £2.7 million to £11.3 million, a massive increase on the £3.6 million spent by the Tory government in the year before the 1997 election.

At the Department for Education and Employment, the budget inflates from last year's £11.9 million to £15.1 million; while the Home Office [internal affairs] will spend £11.1 million this year, up from £5.6 million last year and twice the sum spent by the last Tory administration.

The Department of Trade and Industry will preside over an increase from £1.7 million to £4.5 million, compared with the £3.1m spent by the parsimonious Tories. And at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, led by John Prescott (day job: deputy-prime minister), adspend will grow from £12 million to £14 million, double the 96-97 figure.

Protested Tory social security spoke David Willetts: “It is questionable whether the Government should spend so much more on advertising in an election year than in other years."

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)