LONDON, Oct 1 (Reuters) A 16-billion-pounds project to build a new rail link across London looks set to get the go ahead this month after Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the government would stump up the cash if business also played its part.
In a speech at the Reuters headquarters in London alongside former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and British finance minister Alistair Darling, Brown otherwise ruled out any giveaways in this month's spending review despite speculation that he will soon call a general election.
The opposition Conservative party have been putting forward tax cutting plans this week but Brown said he would not make any unfunded spending commitments.
Crossrail, which would be one of Britain's biggest ever building projects, was first proposed in the mid-1980s, but has since produced nothing more than endless planning and committee meetings and parliamentary debates despite business clamour for it to ease London's clogged transport network.
''If others are prepared to play their part, then necessary funding from the Government will be provided in our spending review, funding only possible because we have kept spending in control in other areas,'' Brown said.
The final go-ahead could come as soon as the government's pre-budget report and spending review later this month.
''From all the signals, including the mention by the Prime Minister this morning, it looks like there's a deal to be done on Crossrail,'' said Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of business group London First.
TIGHT LIMITS The government is expected to maintain tight expenditure limits in the pre-budget report although cuts in both personal and corporation tax will take effect next year.
''There will be no irresponsible relaxation of pay discipline in the public sector, no unfunded spending commitments, no unaffordable promises, no short-term giveaways,'' Brown said.
''A responsible government demands that stability will be our determination first and foremost, yesterday today and tomorrow.'' His declaration came after the opposition Conservative party pledged at the start of their annual conference to scrap duty for first-time buyers of homes costing less than 250,000 pounds 507,700 dollars.
Conservative leader David Cameron has also floated possible cuts in family taxes which would be paid for by ''green taxes'' such as a pollution duty on airlines, in a sign the opposition party could try to make tax a central electoral issue.
Brown's Labour party is running far ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, raising expectations that the new prime minister could call an election as early as October 25 or November. 1, nearly three years earlier than he is required to.
''It's still in the balance,'' said one source close to Brown.
Opinion polls suggest the government's popularity has not been dented by last month's Northern Rock crisis when there was a run on the bank after it sought emergency cash from the Bank of England.
But a survey on Friday showed consumer confidence plunged in the wake of the first British bank run in more than a century.
Brown, who was finance minister for a decade before taking over from Tony Blair in June, said the British economy would survive the current storm in credit markets.
REUTERS SKB AS1638