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Javid warns Johnson not to ignore UK Treasury over spending
[LONDON] Sajid Javid, who resigned as UK Chancellor of the Exchequer two weeks ago, warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to shut out Treasury warnings over spending in a carefully judged attack on his former boss.
Mr Javid quit unexpectedly after being asked to fire his aides and move his department under the control of Mr Johnson's office. His statement in Parliament on Wednesday was his first public intervention since then. While he praised Mr Johnson as a leader, he warned that over-centralising power is a bad idea.
"It has always been the case that advisers advise, ministers decide, and ministers decide on their advisers," Mr Javid told the House of Commons, as Mr Johnson, sitting on the front bench, listened. "I couldn't see why the Treasury, with the vital role that it plays, should be the exception to that." He said the new arrangement, to which his successor Rishi Sunak has agreed, would "significantly inhibit" the chancellor's ability to give candid advice to the prime minister.
Mr Javid also made a reference to Mr Johnson's chief aide, Dominic Cummings, and said "no particular person" has a monopoly on good ideas, but focused most of his fire on fiscal policy.
"I'm a proud low-tax Conservative and I always will be," Mr Javid said. "Already, our tax burden is the highest it's been in 50 years. It's fair to say that not everyone in the centre of government feels the pressure to balance the books."
Mr Javid hinted at the nature of the arguments taking place in private ahead of the March 11 budget.
"Trade-offs have to be made somewhere," he said. "At a time when we need to do much more to level up across the generations, it would not be right to pass the bill for our day to day consumption to our children and grandchildren. And, unlike the US, we don't have the fiscal flexibility that comes with a reserve currency. So that's why the fiscal rules that we were elected on are critical."
The former chancellor, who may well be hoping for a route back into government, closed by pledging his loyalty to Mr Johnson. But if Mr Sunak's Budget next month sees the fiscal rules torn up, Mr Javid has set out a script for Tories who want to argue for spending restraint.