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British PM Rishi Sunak grilled by opposition lawmakers at first question time

Rishi Sunak has faced questions by opposition legislators for the first time as the new prime minister of the United Kingdom, days after his resigned predecessor caused turmoil to the market.

Sunak entered 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, becoming Britain’s third prime minister this year following a disastrous 49-day tenure by Liz Truss, who has been accused of compounding Britain’s already strenuous economic conditions.

The new Conservative prime minister has appointed a cabinet that mingled allies with experienced ministers from the administrations of his two immediate predecessors, Truss and Boris Johnson, as he pledged to try his best to tackle Britain’s multiple economic woes in a bumpy road ahead.

Sunak held his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in parliament on Wednesday, aiming to instill confidence that his government will offer economic stability.

“We will have to take difficult decisions to restore economic stability and confidence,” Sunak told lawmakers. “We will do this in a fair way. … I will always protect the most vulnerable. … We did that in COVID, and we will do that again.”

However, he faced tough questions by opposition lawmakers, who particularly grilled him over reappointing some ministers from cabinets of Johnson, who quit in July after a slew of ethics scandals, and Truss, whose government lasted just seven weeks.

Sunak removed about a dozen members of Truss’s government but kept several senior figures in place, including Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.

The grilling was over reappointing Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who resigned last week after breaching ethics rules by sending a sensitive government email from a private account. The controversial move by Braverman forced her to resign last week. Braverman is also tasked with fulfilling a controversial, stalled plan to send some asylum-seekers arriving in Britain to Rwanda.

Opponents said they were surprised Braverman could be back in her job just days after her resignation and before a probe into her ethics breach. However, Sunak defended her, saying the home secretary will focus on cracking down on criminals and defending the borders.

According to a statement from the Treasury, Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt will now deliver the government’s medium-term fiscal plan on November 17. It had been set for October 31, after the date was earlier pulled forward by over three weeks in a desperate attempt to reassure investors spooked by huge unfunded tax cuts promised by Truss, whose “mini” budget of September 23 hit the pound and caused a rout in the bond market.

Hunt says when the budget comes, it will set out how the government plans to lessen debt in the medium term. He pledged at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the budget would be accompanied by a complete analysis of the government’s plans for growth and spending by the British fiscal watchdog – known as the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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