Accessibility links

Britain's New Cabinet Holds First Meeting to Tackle Deficit


Britain's new Cabinet met for the first time after almost a week of political wrangling that has seen a coalition government take power.

The new cabinet agreed to cut the pay of all ministers by five percent, the first step in what is to be a major effort to cut Britain's national deficit.

Analyst Kerry Brown, of the London-based research group Chatham House, compared Britain's deficit to that of Greece, where financial problems have led to massive cuts in spending and deep social unrest.

"The U.K. government has got to make some pretty savage cuts because its public debt is so high," said Brown. "I think it is over 12 percent of GDP. When you think Greece is, what, 13 and a half percent of GDP, it is a big deficit to be carrying, a big, big deficit."

Britain's deficit stands at almost $250 billion. The new government has promised an emergency budget within 50 days and has already said it will cut spending by nearly $10 billion this financial year.

New Prime Minister David Cameron says savings can be achieved by getting rid of inefficiencies.

Christian Schweiger from Britain's Durham University says Mr. Cameron also talks about devolving power to the people.

"The idea of rolling back the state is really at the heart of the Cameron agenda," Schweiger explained. "What it means, if you look at what they are really advocating, is basically withdrawing state funding from public services such as schools and police forces, and really just asking people to do more by themselves."

He says that plan is in line with traditional Conservative economic policy and at odds with the ideas of its predecessor, the Labor Party. Former prime minister Gordon Brown invested heavily in the public sector and believed the government had to keep spending in order to get Britain out of the recession.

Mr. Brown resigned earlier this week after a coalition was formed between the center-right Conservatives and the left-leaning Liberal Democrats.

The deal was made after a general election last week gave no party an overall majority in parliament.

Mark Wickham-Jones from the University of Bristol says the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats differ on a number of policies and the markets may not react well to that.

"They will be a little nervous about this," Wickham-Jones noted. "Markets do not like coalitions. They do not like uncertainty, so that may be resolved with this agreement, but they also do not like it if there are too many mouths to feed, too many demands on the table."

The markets reacted well when the new government said it would start tackling the deficit immediately.

Other expected legislation is a plan for a banking levy and a commission to investigate the possibility of separating retail and investment banking.

XS
SM
MD
LG