UPDATE 2-Keep spending under control, pleads former UK finance minister Javid

(Adds PM’s spokesman)

By William James

LONDON, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Former British finance minister Sajid Javid urged the government on Wednesday to stick to its fiscal rules, in a personal statement to parliament to explain his sudden and unexpected exit from government.

Javid resigned on Feb. 13 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded he sack his team of advisers and instead rely on a team of aides hired jointly by the finance ministry and Johnson.

His replacement, Rishi Sunak, is reported to be considering loosening the fiscal rules that aim to bring Britain’s day-to-day spending into balance within three years. That would help Johnson meet promises of higher public spending.

Javid said he continued to support Johnson’s government but argued against any watering down of commitments to fiscal discipline.

“At a time when we need to do much more to level up across generations, it would not be right to pass the bill for our day-to-day consumption to our children and grandchildren,” Javid said.

“The fiscal rules that we are elected on are critical,” he added. “To govern is to choose, and these rules crystallise the choices that are required to keep spending under control, to keep taxes low, to root out waste, and to pass that litmus test … of debt being lower at the end of the parliament.”

Johnson responded by thanking Javid for his “immense service” to the country but did not say whether his government would stick to those fiscal rules.

A spokesman for Johnson said later that the details of the fiscal rules the government will use would be set out in the March 11 budget.

Setting out the reasons for his departure, Javid said a minister should be free to choose advisers and a chancellor had to be able to “give candid advice to a prime minister, so he’s speaking truth to power.”

He made an oblique reference Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s senior adviser who is thought to have been behind the demand to dismiss Javid’s aides.

“I don’t intend to dwell further on all the details and the personality – the comings and goings, if you will,” Javid said. (Editing by Elizabeth Piper and Stephen Addison)

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