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‘There’s No Money Left,’ U.K. Minister Learns

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The note underscores the task facing Britain’s government
Former U.K. chief secretary to the treasury Liam Byrne. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- Arriving for work at the U.K. Treasury last week, the incoming chief secretary, David Laws, found a note from his predecessor, Liam Byrne, offering advice on the job.

“Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left,” Laws cited it as saying.

“Which was honest,” Laws, whose position is the No. 2 in the Treasury after the chancellor of the exchequer, told a press conference in London today. “But slightly less than I was expecting.”

The note underscores the task facing Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition as it seeks to reconcile demand for improved health and education services with promises to reduce the largest budget deficit since World War II.

It was also in the tradition of Reginald Maudling, Conservative chancellor of the exchequer from 1962 to 1964. Leaving his residence after election defeat, he was reported by James Callaghan, his successor, to have remarked, “Sorry, old cock, to leave it in this shape.”

Byrne didn’t respond to requests for comment. He was quoted by Sky News as saying the note was a joke. “I do hope David Laws’ sense of humour wasn’t another casualty of the coalition deal,” he said, according to Sky News.

According to the Treasury, the letter read as follows: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there’s no money. Kind regards -- and good luck! Liam.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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