UK PM May defends aus­ter­ity amid splits

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Embattled Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May yes­ter­day de­fended her gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy of aus­ter­ity, amid signs of cabi­net splits over the seven-year squeeze on public spend­ing. The Con­ser­va­tive leader, who is bat­tling to as­sert her au­thor­ity af­ter last month’s dis­as­trous gen­eral elec­tion, drew loud cheers from her MPs when she in­sisted that Bri­tain must “live within our means”.

In a ro­bust ex­change in the House of Com­mons, op­po­si­tion Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “flip-flop­ping and floun­der­ing” over whether to raise wages for teach­ers, nurses and other public-sec­tor work­ers. For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son, De­fence Sec­re­tary Michael Fal­lon and En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Michael Gove have all in­di­cated they would sup­port lift­ing the pay freeze on around five mil­lion peo­ple.

Down­ing Street it­self sug­gested last week that it would re­view the pol­icy only to in­sist hours later that noth­ing has changed, a po­si­tion re­peated by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond. The con­fu­sion led to ac­cu­sa­tions that May was no longer in con­trol of her gov­ern­ment, af­ter los­ing her party’s ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment in the June 8 vote. Dur­ing her weekly ques­tion time, May said she would con­sider “very care­fully” rec­om­men­da­tions from pay re­view bod­ies.

But she warned: “We need to bal­ance the need to be fair to public-sec­tor work­ers, to pro­tect jobs in the public sec­tor, and to be fair to those who pay for it.” Cor­byn said the pay cap had led to “real short­ages” in nurs­ing and teach­ing, as well as “real hard­ship” as wages failed to keep up with in­fla­tion, ef­fec­tively re­sult­ing in a pay cut. “When Tories talk of tough choices, we know who suf­fers-it’s the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety,” he said. May coun­tered that she valued public-sec­tor work­ers, adding: “The dif­fer­ence is, I know we have to pay for them.” May warned that Labour’s plans to in­crease public spend­ing could see Bri­tain go the way of debt-laden Greece-an ac­cu­sa­tion a se­nior party source later said was “pre­pos­ter­ous”. She also pointed to record lev­els of em­ploy­ment, at­tribut­ing “good man­age­ment of the econ­omy-you only get it with the Con­ser­va­tives.” — AFP

LON­DON: Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May leaves No 10 Down­ing St for Prime Min­is­ter’s Ques­tion Time (PMQs) at West­min­ster. — AFP

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