British PM defends plans to overhaul parliament rules

16th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday defended his plans to change the way parliament works and pledged a full audit of government spending, in his first major interview since taking office.

Cameron insisted the coalition between his Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats would last, in a BBC television interview.

He also said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, would be part of his "inner circle" and have a say in hiring and firing ministers.

Several lawmakers -- including from the Conservative and Lib Dem parties -- have expressed concern over his plan to introduce a fixed-term, five-year parliament, with a 55 percent majority of lawmakers needed to dissolve it.

Currently, parliaments are elected for five years but can be dissolved to trigger an election at any time, at the prime minister's request.

"I believe the time has come for us to move in Britain to fixed-term parliaments," said Cameron, who took office on Tuesday.

"I'm the first prime minister in British history to give up the right, independently, to go to the Queen and ask for a dissolution at a time of my choosing. This is a big surrender of prime ministerial power. I think it's a really good thing.

"If you have a fixed-term parliament, you have to have some form of mechanism of actually making sure it is a fixed-term parliament."

Describing himself as a liberal conservative, Cameron said his new government was a "progressive alliance".

He said the Conservatives and Liberals would sit in separate blocs in parliament because their tie-up was a coalition, "not a merger of parties", and they would still fight each other in elections.

"A lot of it is about having goodwill and building confidence. I think that's something I feel very comfortable about doing. It's the way I work," Cameron said.

He said Clegg would have some say in sacking ministers.

"The deputy prime minister is clearly part of the inner core and when it comes to government appointments and... disappointments, that is the prime minister's job but this is going to be something that we try and do together," he said.

Cameron also said finance minister George Osborne would launch Monday an audit of the government's books by the new Office of Budget Responsibility, which would examine every aspect of government expenditure.

He said the former prime minister Gordon Brown's administration had embarked on "crazy" spending.

"What we have seen so far are just individual examples of very bad procedures and bad behaviour, spending decisions taken in the last year or so of the Labour government that no rational government would have done," he said.

"On Monday, we have the announcement of a proper audit of public spending. We have a budget within 50 days, which sets out the total spending envelope over the next three years.

"Then we have a proper spending review taking place over the summer and into the autumn where we work out how to distribute these difficult decisions between the various departments."

© 2010 AFP

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