Cameron 'puzzled' after minister quits over budget

  • 22/03/2016
David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith (AAP)
David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith (AAP)

UK Prime Minister David Cameron "absolutely" backs his Finance Minister after a senior Cabinet member quit over budget cuts, his spokeswoman says, as the British leader tries to unite an increasingly divided party.

Mr Cameron was left "puzzled and disappointed" on Friday when senior minister and former leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, resigned his post over cuts to disability benefits which were outlined in Chancellor George Osborne's budget last week.

The sudden departure of Mr Duncan Smith not only widened divisions in the ruling party, split over whether to stay in the European Union, but also prompted calls from the opposition Labour Party for Osborne to step down.

Asked whether Mr Cameron had complete confidence in Osborne, the Prime Minister's spokeswoman told reporters: "Absolutely."

"We've faced... tough decisions about how the country lives within its means and he [Mr Cameron] has worked very closely with the Chancellor and other ministers on that to date, and will continue to do so."

She said Mr Cameron would no longer pursue the cuts to disability benefits, meaning a loss for the budget of £4.4 billion (NZ$9.4 billion).

Mr Osborne, once seen as a frontrunner to succeed Mr Cameron, will outline how he will fill that hole in the Autumn statement, she said, referring to one of two statements, usually held in October or November, when the government makes its economic forecasts.

"The Chancellor has already said that he is looking at this issue and yes we will set out our approach at the Autumn statement," she said.