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Britain's new coalition gov't meets for first time

LONDON — Britain's first coalition government in seven decades held its inaugural meeting Thursday, as members of once-rival parties sat around the Cabinet table together — and signaled their seriousness about deficit-slashing by agreeing to an immediate pay cut.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron presided over the gathering, sitting across from his deputy, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

There are 18 Conservative ministers and five Liberal Democrats in the new Cabinet. The two parties forged a coalition government — Britain's first since World War II — after last week's national election produced a hung Parliament, in which no party has an overall majority. The Tories won 306 of the 650 House of Commons seats, the Labor Party 258 and the Lib Dems 57.

Cameron filled out his government team with a slew of junior ministerial appointments and visited key government departments to speak to civil servants.

"The more I think about this endeavor on which we have embarked, the more excited I become," Cameron told staff at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Among the first acts of the new Cabinet, which has said deficit-cutting is its top priority, was agreeing to take a 5 percent pay cut and subsequent five-year salary freeze that the government says will save taxpayers $450,000 a year.

Clegg spoke Thursday night with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, after Cameron held phone talks Tuesday with Obama.

"They looked forward to close cooperation between their governments on the shared challenges of Afghanistan, the global economy and international security," Britain's Cabinet Office said in a statement.

Britain's new coalition gov't meets for first time 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:53pm]
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