London - British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called on Wednesday for an emergency tax on Britain's wealthiest people while the country fights an "economic war".
Clegg said Britons of "very considerable personal wealth" must be called on to make a greater contribution towards the "national effort", as Britain tackles a longer than expected recession.
"If we are going to ask people for more sacrifices over a longer period of time, a longer period of belt tightening as a country, then we just have to make sure that people see it is being done as fairly and as progressively as possible," Clegg said in an interview with the Guardian newspaper.
Liberal Democrat leader Clegg said he is embarking on a battle to persuade his Conservative Party coalition partners of the need to ensure that the rich shoulder a greater burden of the economic pain.
"If we want to remain cohesive and prosperous as a society, people of very considerable personal wealth have got to make a bit of an extra contribution."
Clegg indicated that a potential rich tax would fall on wealth, rather than income, because there are no plans to change the new 45 pence top rate of income tax.
"The action is making sure that very high asset wealth is reflected in the tax system in the way that it isn't now, making sure that we continue to crack down very hard on tax avoidance, making sure that tax breaks don't go disproportionately to people at the very top."
Recovery from the economic slump has been weak, with stuttered growth that has seen Britain in recession for much of the last four years.
The coalition's hard line austerity programme has so far failed to rejuvenate an economy sinking deeper into a double-dip recession.
"What people once thought might have been a short sharp economic battle, a short sharp recession, is clearly turning into a longer term process of economic recovery and fiscal restraint. That begs big questions," Clegg said.
In a broad ranging interview Clegg also insisted that the Conservative/Liberal Democratic coalition would stick to its intention not to build a third runway at London's Heathrow airport.
Britain's transport minister, Justine Greening, said on Tuesday she may resign if the government gives in to renewed pressure to expand Heathrow.
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