Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Monday, 10 May 2010 12:30 UK

Hung parliament: Darling urges deal decision 'today'

Alistair Darling
Alistair Darling remains as chancellor while the talks continue

Chancellor Alistair Darling says the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats must decide on Monday whether or not they will form a government together.

The two parties are set to enter their third day of talks about a potential power-sharing agreement after Friday's inconclusive election result.

"I just think there comes a point where you have to decide if there is a deal or no deal," Mr Darling told the BBC.

The public and markets wanted to see a "government in place", he added.

Negotiating teams from the Tories and Lib Dems are set to meet for the third successive day as the two sides discuss possible arrangements to put together a government.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg met his Conservative counterpart David Cameron twice over the weekend but also held a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has said he is ready to discuss a possible deal of his own with the Lib Dems should the talks break down.

I don't think it would do any good to let this process drag on
Alistair Darling

Mr Darling, who remains as chancellor for the time being, said he believed the Tory-Lib Dem talks could not continue for ever.

"I don't think it would do any good to let this process drag on," he told Today. "I hope by the end of today they will decide whether they can do a deal or not."

'Key thing'

He added: "I am not saying that tomorrow's the end of the world but I just make the general observation that there does come a point in any negotiations - either you can do a deal or you can't.

"If there's not a deal, no doubt they will talk to us. The key thing everybody would expect, whether you're a market or more importantly in some ways from the point of view of people at home, we want to see a government in place."

Mr Darling also confirmed he had spoken with his Conservative and Lib Dem counterparts, George Osborne and Vince Cable, before he and other EU finance ministers approved £52bn in stand-by funding to help struggling European economies.

However, he stressed the decision - designed to calm market worries that the Greek debt crisis could spread to other countries - was his alone and he took "responsibility" for it.

The chancellor said it was a "very good deal" for the UK as there were "stringent" conditions attached to the money and the UK would only have to pay out - up to a maximum of £8bn - if another country defaulted on 100% of its loans.

"Therefore this is actually quite a good insurance scheme for us," he said. "Put another way - if we didn't do it, the risk is the countries would go down and there would be a far greater loss on us."

The UK is not contributing to a separate £381bn financial stability package put together by countries which use the euro.

He said he, Mr Osborne and Mr Cable all agreed "there was no way Britain was going to underwrite the euro".

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