LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he would protect the public finances after a surge in spending, and defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson whose handling of the coronavirus crisis has come under fire.
“We have a sacred responsibility to future generations to leave the public finances strong, and through careful management of our economy, this Conservative government will always balance the books,” he said.
“If instead we argue there is no limit on what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole, what is the point in us?”
Sunak was addressing the annual conference of his Conservative Party which is taking place online this year.
Sunak used his speech to pay tribute to Johnson whose leadership has been questioned, including by some within the Conservative Party.
“Yes, it’s been difficult, challenges are part of the job, but on the big calls, in the big moments, Boris Johnson has got it right and we need that leadership,” Sunak said.
He also said he would be creative in finding ways to help Britain’s economy recover from its record slump earlier this year.
“Even if this moment is more difficult than any you have ever faced, even if it feels like there is no hope, I am telling you that there is, and that the overwhelming might of the British state will be placed at your service,” he said.
The broadcast of Sunak’s speech was momentarily interrupted as he began it.
Reporting by Andy Bruce, William James and David Milliken; Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Guy Faulconbridge