Workers repair part of the Channel TUnnel which links Britain and France in Coquelles, northern France earlier this year. Source: AFP

Workers repair part of the Channel TUnnel which links Britain and France in Coquelles, northern France earlier this year. Source: AFP

LONDON: The British government is to sell off 16 billion pounds (25.4 billion dollars, 17.2 billion euros) worth of state assets, Prime Minister Gordon Brown was to say on Monday in an attempt to reduce the national debt.
The announcement is to be made in a keynote speech setting out Brown's vision for "enduring and sustainable growth."
An initial sale of assets including the Channel Tunnel, the government's 33 percent stake in European uranium consortium URENCO, the Tote bookmakers, the Dartford bridge and tunnel under the River Thames, and the Student Loans Company, was expected to raise some three billion pounds.
The country is still mired in recession and has a forecast deficit this year of 175 billion pounds.
The opposition Conservatives, who are well ahead in the opinion pollswith a general election due by June, set out their plans last week for tackling the debt problem.
Brown wants to halve Britain's deficit over the next four years and is bidding to reclaim the initiative for theLabour Party.
"We also need a deficit reduction plan that supports growth and jobs, not one that snuffs out recovery before it has started," Brown was to say.
The government will also sell off surplus real estate as market conditions improve.
In a clear dig at the Conservatives, Brown was to attack their plans for dragging Britain out of recession.
He was to say: "A vital contributor to sustainable public finances is growth. Restoring public financesustainability must be done in a way that supports growth not destroys it. The failure to do so is the real risk of a lost decade of austerity.
"A reduction in growth of one percent next year would raise the deficit by half a percent next year and even more in subsequent years, adding to the future debt burden.
"The resulting impact on the debt burden could be more than five percent of gross domestic product after 10 years."
A Conservative spokesman said: "As any family knows, selling off things helps in the short-term and, given the state the country is in, is probably necessary but it is no substitute for a long-term plan to get the country to live within its means."
Meanwhile, Brown said he would propose a "new European strategy for growth and jobs" when European Union leaders meet in Brussels on 29-30 October, saying the continent's economies needed restructuring.
"Britain will push to step up work on an EU-Indian trade deal and seek a rapid conclusion of talks on an EU-Korean trade deal -- which alongside our ambition to increase exports to China and the rest of Asia -- could be worth billions to the UK," he was to say.
"We will also push for further action to reduce barriers to trade in services within the EU itself.
"Britain must also use all its influence in Europe to ensure that an outward-looking EU is part of the solution to the world's economic challenges, not part of the problem."
Brown was also to pledge to "intensify our attack on tax evasion and tax havens," and launch a new drive to boost apprenticeships in a bid to enhance the skills base of the workforce.