UK's Cameron: Austerity is only solution to crisis

October 5, 2011 - 9:20 AM
Britain Conservative Party Conference

British Prime Minister David Cameron, center, speaks with Leah Wong, 20, a 3rd year Physics student at the University of Manchester, right, and Neill Ricketts, Chief Executive of Versatile Minerals, as he visits Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry before his keynote speech at Britain's Conservative Party Conference, Manchester, England, Wednesday Oct. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Jon Super, Pool)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to insist Wednesday that he won't halt the country's tough austerity measures despite a squeeze on economic growth.

In a keynote address to an annual rally of his governing Conservative Party, Cameron planned to tell delegates that Britain's program of 81 billion pounds ($126 billion) of public spending cuts must continue.

"Slowly but surely we're laying the foundations for a better future. But this is the crucial point — it will only work if we stick with it," Cameron planned to say, according to excerpts of his speech released in advance.

His speech comes on the day Britain's Office for National Statistics said the country's economy grew by a weaker than expected 0.1 percent in the second quarter, fueling worries over sluggish growth.

"Our plan is right. And our plan will work," Cameron planned to tell the rally, warning Britons not to be "paralyzed by gloom and fear" over the economic crisis.

The British leader was forced into a rewrite of his address after initially releasing an excerpt in which he urged ordinary people to pay off credit card bills, just as the government was seeking to cut the country's national debts.

Retailers warned that pushing shoppers to pay off debts, rather than spend, could damage Britain's already meager growth. The British Retail Consortium said his original message was "at odds with promoting growth."

"Let's reject the pessimism," Cameron planned to say, seeking to strike an upbeat tone despite the worrying economic forecast. "Let's bring on the can-do optimism. Let's summon the energy and the appetite to fight for a better future for our country."

In an earlier address to the conference, Foreign Secretary William Hague said he had been right to lead a campaign against Britain joining the euro currency.

Hague said his prediction that the eurozone would "become a burning building with no exits," had been proven to be correct.

"It is now acknowledged that when we said that joining the euro would be a disaster for Britain, we were right," Hague said.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox, in his own speech to the convention, vowed that Britain would continue to defend the Falkland Islands, its isolated archipelago in the south Atlantic, despite cuts to defense spending.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez recently stirred up hostilities over the islands, which Argentina claims and attempted to recapture in 1982, prompting a brief war with Britain.

Britain still maintains about 1,000 troops on the territory, which is located more than 290 miles (460 kilometers) off the coast of South America.

"We will continue to guarantee the security of the Falklands," Fox said. "However, this is not the 1980s, we are now working towards healthier relations with the Argentinians."