(Updates with protest in third paragraph, Hague in ninth.)
Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister David Cameron said his government is determined to do everything it can within its deficit-reduction rules to restore growth to the U.K. economy.
“We need to do everything we can to fire up the engine of the British economy,” Cameron told BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show” in Manchester, northwest England, where his Conservative Party began its annual conference today. “There’s a step-change taking place right now.”
The premier cited proposed changes to planning rules and a new proposal to allow developers to build on unused government land without making advance payments as examples of the sort of action he is considering. He rejected demands by the opposition Labour Party and 30,000 people protesting outside the conference this afternoon to relax plans to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015, saying that risks pushing up borrowing costs.
The economy has barely expanded in the past year as government budget cuts and accelerating inflation sap consumer confidence. Cameron is under mounting pressure to find ways to spur growth as the euro-region debt crisis and global market turmoil threaten the biggest markets for British goods.
Cameron’s comments come after his economic strategy was attacked by a senior member of his own party. In a pamphlet for the Centre for Policy Studies research organization, Andrew Tyrie, who heads Parliament’s cross-party Treasury Committee, said the coalition government still lacked a “coherent and credible” plan for growth 17 months after taking office.
“There is much to do, and it is not just a question of gaps in policy; in places it is inconsistent, even incoherent,” Tyrie wrote.
Cameron responded to the lawmaker’s criticism by saying the government is cutting business taxes and making it easier for companies to start up, hire and fire workers and invest.
Gross domestic product probably grew an unrevised 0.2 percent in the second quarter after stagnating over the previous six months, according to all 28 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. The Office for National Statistics in London will release the figures on Oct. 5.
About 30,000 people joined a “March for the alternative: jobs, growth, justice,” organized by the Trades Union Congress, Britain’s umbrella labor movement, outside the conference center, Greater Manchester Police said on its Twitter feed. Demonstrators, who shouted “Tory scum” at delegates, called on the coalition to reverse its spending cuts, which the TUC says are leading to stagnation in the economy.
“I say to those who are protesting outside here today: the money you were promised by the last Labour Government never existed, it was never there, and we have been left with the task of telling you the truth,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told delegates. “The solution to excessive borrowing and debt cannot be more borrowing and debt, and now we have a government that knows it.”
Cameron urged leaders of the 17 euro-region countries to take immediate action to prevent another global economic crisis.
“Action needs to be taken in the coming weeks, to strengthen Europe’s banks, to build the defenses,” he said. “They’ve got to get ahead of the markets now.”
Cameron and Hague ruled out a referendum on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union after media reports today that lawmakers will debate whether voters should be given a chance to decide. A vote in Parliament in favor of a referendum would not be binding on the government.
“To actually say to people we are going to spend money on an in/out referendum, when we could be working on the economy, would not be very sensible,” Hague told Sky News.
As well opening up government land for development, Cameron said he wants to bring back one of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s most popular policies, encouraging local governments to sell off their housing to tenants.
Unlike the original policy of the 1980s, which led to a fall in the stock of publicly owned homes, Cameron said he wanted to see the money used to build new houses.
“Let’s bring back the right to buy your council house, with proper discounts that Labour got rid of,” he said. “When people choose to buy their council home, let’s use that money to build homes for rent, for low rent for families.”
Cameron opened his BBC interview with an apology for remarks criticized as sexist made during his weekly question- and-answer session in Parliament over recent months. “I said some things in the House of Commons that just came out wrong,” Cameron said. “I deeply regret that. That’s not who I am. I recognize I must do better.”
In April, Labour demanded Cameron apologize after he told Angela Eagle, a Labour Treasury spokeswoman, to “calm down, dear.” Last month, when one of his own lawmakers, Nadine Dorries, urged the prime minister to show his Liberal Democrat deputy, Nick Clegg, “who’s the boss,” Cameron replied that he knew she was “extremely frustrated” and then appeared to join in the laughter the comment provoked. Dorries later described the incident as humiliating.
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