Former Conservartive chairman Lord Tebbit yesterday issued a call for the party to offer tax cuts ahead of the next General Election.

The demand came amid growing pressure on leader David Cameron over tax at the party's conference in Bournemouth.

Mr Cameron on Sunday insisted he would not be "pushed around" by grassroots activists unhappy with his refusal to commit himself to reducing taxes.

Lord Tebbit won rapturous applause on the conference fringe yesterday as he argued there was a "compulsive moral and economic case" for the Tories to offer up-front tax cuts.

He quoted form Conservative manifestos for the 1979 and 1987 elections, when promises of income tax cuts played a large part in winning landslide victories for Margaret Thatcher.

And an independent straw poll of the 200 activists at the event showed a clear majority believed tax cuts should be a priority for the Tories at the next election.

Lord Tebbit told the meeting: "We know that tax cutting works. We have tried it and it works. We tried raising taxes - that doesn't work. The Irish have tried cutting taxes and it works. It works wherever it is put into operation."

In 1979 and 1987, the Tories were the only party going into the elections with the promise of lower taxes, said Lord Tebbit. And, in a dig at Mr Cameron's stance, he added: "If we aren't careful, the way things are going, we are going to be the only party at the next election that doesn't believe in lower taxation."

Mr Cameron's promise to "share the proceeds of growth" between public services and tax cuts would in fact increase the share of GDP taken by the Treasury if the split was 50-50, he said.

And he took an apparent pot-shot at Mr Cameron's privileged background and Eton education, saying: "I give my wholehearted support to David in that view of his that people get better value when they spend their own money.

"He knows it is true in education, of course he does.

Unfortunately, most of us aren't well off enough to have that experience."

Tax cuts could provide Tories with the weapon they need to win back the less well off voters who have defected to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, argued Lord Tebbit.

"Don't think tax cuts are only for the rich," he said. "No. Remember this principle which we operated in Margaret Thatcher's time: rich people can either afford to pay their taxes or afford to pay advisers to ensure they don't pay their taxes. Poor people can't afford advisers and they can't afford to pay tax.

"That's why there is a compulsive moral and economic case for tax cutting and for putting it up-front."