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Hague resilient as markets plunge

The Government is "fully functioning" despite the Prime Minister, his deputy and the Chancellor all being on holiday as stock markets plunge around the globe, Foreign Secretary William Hague has declared.

Mr Hague said he is set to chair an urgent meeting in central London on the economic crisis, and he spoke to David Cameron on Friday morning.

He sought to reassure Britons over the turmoil in the markets, stressing that ministers had taken the "necessary action" and now need to "follow it through with clarity and confidence".

The FTSE 100 Index fell 146.2 points to 5247 on Friday amid investor panic over the deepening eurozone debt crisis and health of the US economy.

Mr Hague said: "The Government is always operating 24 hours a day, we're not in the 18th century, of course everyone is constantly in touch by telephone or whatever means necessary.

"I've been discussing it with the Prime Minister and indeed am on my way to central London to chair a meeting about this now. So the Government is fully functioning in response to this crisis and indeed to anything else that is happening in the country or in the world."

Both Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne spoke by telephone with Bank of England Governor Mervyn King. A Treasury spokesman said Mr Osborne and Mr King discussed the financial situation and the Chancellor asked the Governor for his judgment.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls accused the Government of failing to provide leadership in the global economic crisis.

Writing on the Guardian's Comment is Free website, Mr Balls raised the spectre of a 1930s-style depression, warning that governments in Britain and elsewhere were repeating the mistakes of that era by ignoring growth and relying solely on deficit reduction as the route out of recession.

Mr Balls called for "a plan for global growth, open trade and sustainable deficit reduction in Europe, in the US and in the UK".

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