All Britons must help deal with debt, UK's Osborne says

LONDON Sat Dec 1, 2012 10:09pm EST

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LONDON Dec 2 (Reuters) - British Finance Minister George Osborne said on Sunday all Britons should be prepared to make sacrifices to help shrink the country's debts, as he prepared to defend his faltering austerity plan in the coming days.

Osborne is due to present his "Autumn statement" on Wednesday - the half-yearly budget update in which he may face the tough choice of either announcing more spending cuts or delaying his debt target.

He is expected to defend his stringent economic policies as the only credible way of solving the government's biggest political problem - its failure to deliver a strong recovery.

Writing in The Sun on Sunday newspaper, the chancellor of the Exchequer said all sectors of society needed to accept cuts or higher taxes.

"Everyone must make a contribution to dealing with our debts, from the richest in our society to those living a life on benefits," he wrote.

"We are hunting down those who evade tax wherever they try to hide. ... But we understand that fairness isn't just about taxing the rich. It's also about ending the something for nothing benefits culture."

British media reported on Sunday that Osborne was poised to announce plans to cap the pension benefits of high earners alongside reining in the welfare budget. The Treasury declined to comment on the reports.

Other measures likely to be announced in the statement include moves to boost Britain's fledgling shale gas industry, newspapers said.

Slow growth over the past two years means it will take at least two years longer than originally planned for Osborne to meet one of his debt-reduction goals, removing Britain's underlying budget deficit.

But in his article, the chancellor expressed his firm commitment to his economic policies.

"Britain is on the right track and turning back now would be a disaster," he wrote, citing low interest rates and the creation of 1 million private-sector jobs as examples of the success of the government's strategy.

The failure of Prime Minister David Cameron's government to nurse the economy back to strong growth after the financial crisis has fueled attacks from Labour, which polls show would regain power if an election were held now.

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