British PM softens ground for austerity measures
Prime Minister David Cameron will seek to soften the ground Monday for the "inevitably painful" measures required to cut Britain's record deficit, ahead of an emergency budget on June 22.
In a major speech, Cameron will warn that scaling back the 156-million-pound deficit -- the top priority of his government -- will require "momentous" decisions with "enormous" implications for everybody in the country.
"How we deal with these things will affect our economy, our society -- indeed our whole way of life. The decisions we make will affect every single person in our country," he will say, according to advance extracts of the speech.
"And the effects of those decisions will stay with us for years, perhaps decades to come."
Cameron's new coalition government has already unveiled plans to cut 6.25 billion pounds (9.0 billion dollars, 7.5 billion euros) this year, and further austerity measures are expected in the budget later this month.
He will say these decisions are "so momentous" and have "such enormous implications" that members of the public would be involved through Internet and public consultations, ahead of a spending review later this year.
"I want to set out for the country the big arguments that form the background to the inevitably painful times that lie ahead of us," he will say.
"Why we need to do this. Why the overall scale of the problem is even worse than we thought. And why its potential consequences are therefore more critical than we feared."
In an interview with the Sunday Times at the weekend, Cameron said the former Labour government had left Britain with "totally irresponsible" debt levels and indicated that welfare payments and public sector pay could be cut and sales tax could increase.
But in a separate interview, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tried to offer reassurances that the cuts would not hit the worst off, as many in the left say those imposed by Conservative premier Margaret Thatcher did.
"We're going to do this differently. We're not going to do it in the way we did in the '80s," Clegg told The Observer.
© 2010 AFP