Tory minister rejects backbench calls for early exit from coalition

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A TORY minister has rejected calls from some senior backbenchers to separate from their Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues before the 2015 general election.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said the arrangement was for five years and people and businesses would expect the coalition to “finish that job”.

Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, and select committee chairman Bernard Jenkin have led calls for the parties to go their separate ways before the 2015 poll.

But Mr Fallon told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News: “There is a national interest at stake here. Chancellor (Angela) Merkel comes up for election in September but every other government, every other coalition right across Europe, has gone. This one is sticking to it, the public finances are slowly coming right, we set out a five-year programme, the first time we have had a fixed parliament in this country.

“We set out a five-year programme all the way through to May 2015. I think in the national interest people would expect us to finish that job.”

He added that the five-year fixed-term parliament meant “business and everybody else can see that we are in it for the five-year term”.

But he insisted that despite the partnership with the Lib Dems “we are doing Conservative things, you’ve seen that with our policy on Europe – we are determined now to give people the first referendum for over 40 years – the Liberal Democrats won’t give you that”.

He added: “You’ve seen that with a tougher line on immigration, we’ve cut it, it’s falling now, the Liberal Democrats wouldn’t have done that, and you’ve seen it with benefit reform as well.”

But Mr Brady told the Sunday Telegraph: “It makes sense to plan an exit well in advance of a 2015 election. We need to convey a clear, separate identity and a separate set of aspirations from the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Jenkin, chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, said: “Unless we are campaigning for a coalition after the election we had better show that we mean what we say and that we want to stand as a separate party and stand for separate things.”