LIBERAL DEMOCRAT leader Sir Menzies Campbell will overcome a challenge to his tax plans at the party conference next week, the party's leader in the Welsh Assembly predicted yesterday.
Mike German said it was vital Sir Menzies sees off the prospect of a humiliating defeat in Brighton - his first conference as party leader.
Sir Menzies has angered some Lib-Dems with a plan to drop the party's flagship commitment to a 50p top-rate income tax.
Mr German said he hoped the tax plan, with its so-called "green" levies and an income tax cut for the poorest, would get through, but said there needed to be more money for some spending commitments.
"Ming has made a challenge for himself and quite rightly so because he believes very passionately in it," he said. "We have got to get the green taxes through because our green credentials depend on it and we are serious about global warming. I think the party will probably endorse the tax proposals."
The tax motion calls for fairer, simpler and greener taxes but drops the commitment to higher taxes for incomes over £100,000.
An amendment by senior backbench MP Evan Harris asks for the 50% rate to be kept on earnings over £150,000 per year.
Mr German said spending on free personal care for the elderly and tuition fees would be the "most controversial" topics in Brighton.
"If these are retained that would mean the figures don't quite stack up."
Mr German said he was "very passionate" about free personal care, but Wales' stance on university fees might become too expensive in 2009 if a cap of £3,000 was lifted in England. Welsh students do not pay top-up fees if they study in Wales.
He said, "We certainly want to keep it (the fee policy) until 2009 because we have got a fixed period and we know how much it is going to cost. As a party in Wales we have not yet got a definite policy on what we would do in 2009. "
Mr German said tax-varying powers should be devolved to give Wales "more flexibility".
He will not vote in Brighton because he has to return to Cardiff when the Assembly reconvenes after the summer recess next week.
Mr German could find himself in the Cabinet after next year's National Assembly election as part of a coalition government.
He denied reports his party already had a secret power-sharing agreement with Labour, drawn up in case Rhodri Morgan fails to win a governing majority.
"It's absolutely clear therefore that we will discuss, if the people of Wales so decide, these matters after an election and they will be based on a programme," he said.
The south-east Wales AM said he had given no thought to what Cabinet job he would like next year if he ends up in the Government.
He confidently predicted a "powerful" manifesto would return more than the current six Lib-Dem AMs to the Assembly next May.
"I have every confidence we will jump that bracket and move into the seven-to-11 (AMs) brigade," he said.