Labour poll lead increases again as Miliband promises 1m new homes

Labour's poll lead started to creep up again today, as delegates in Brighton prepared for a speech in which Ed Miliband is expected to promise one million new homes.

The Labour conference has been increasingly dominated by questions over Damian McBride, the former Gordon Brown special adviser whose book revealing a poisonous culture of hostile briefings in Downing Street is being serialised in the press.

But Miliband is hoping some big ticket policies and a well-delivered keynote speech will wrestle back control of the coverage.

The leader's speech comes amid signs of improved poll ratings, with Labour sporting an eight-point lead in today's YouGov tracker poll.

Earlier this month, Labour's poll lead had dwindled to just three or four points, although one poll actually put the Tories and Labour on level pegging, prompting renewed speculation about Miliband's leadership.

Today's poll put Labour on 40%, the Tories on 32%, Ukip on 12% and the Liberal Democrats on ten per cent.

As well as house building, the Labour leader will today pledge to slash business rates for small firms and pay for the move by cancelling the coalition's corporation tax cuts in 2015 and 2016.

"One of the first acts of a new Labour government will be to use all the money that David Cameron wants to spend helping just 80,000 big businesses to cut business rates for 1.5m shops, pubs, workshops and hi-tech firms in our country – and then freeze it the following year," he will say.

"In 2015, 'one nation' Labour: the party of small business."

Party sources said the business rate reduction will cut an average of £450 off bills for owners of 1.5 million shops.

The £790 million cut will apply to businesses with an annual rental value of £50,000 or less.

Miliband is also expected to confirm long-rumoured plans to announce a massive house building programme if he wins in 2015.

The Labour leader will make former BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons chair of a Rebuilding Britain Commission to identify sites for new towns and garden cities.

A 'right to grow' status is intended to force town halls to contribute housebuilding plans with neighbouring councils. Councils will also be able to charge developers for sitting on land with planning permission, or issue compulsory purchase orders.

The speech will also feature plans to curb energy bills.