World

Theresa May survives first parliamentary test after snap election

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May's government on Wednesday defeated its first parliamentary challenge since a disastrous election earlier this month, in a vote on whether to maintain increasingly unpopular austerity measures.

The amendment was defeated by 323 votes to 309, reflecting the new landscape in Parliament where the Conservatives now need the backing of Northern Ireland's ultra-conservative DUP party, after losing their majority in this month's snap election.

The Conservatives had expected to increase their majority in the election, but left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn energised voters with an offer of increased public sector investment.

With 317 of the 650 seats in Parliament, the Conservatives now need to be supported by the DUP's 10 MPs.

Mrs May's deal with the DUP has itself raised questions about austerity, after the government promised £1 billion (S$1.8 billion) in new funding for the province in order to secure the DUP's support.

Labour introduced the amendment on Wednesday to the Queen's Speech - the government's legislative agenda - calling for an end to the pay cap and cuts to the police and fire service budgets. Ahead of the vote, Mr Corbyn claimed austerity played a part in the blaze at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London earlier this month, in which 79 people are presumed dead.

The external cladding is thought to have fuelled the flames, and tests on 120 similarly-tiled high-rises have all failed fire safety checks.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote, sources close to Mrs May signalled an easing of austerity could soon be on the card. "We understand people are weary after years of hard work to rebuild the economy," a senior source in May's Downing Street office said. "We're working through and looking at the recommendations from the pay review bodies that are coming in." But Downing Street later sought to downplay those comments, insisting instead that its policy had not changed. - AFP

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