The PMS provided a readout of the Cabinet meeting held that morning. The Chancellor and Chief Secretary had looked ahead to departmental budget setting for the financial year 2015/16. It was important that departments stepped up their engagement with the Treasury and the Efficiency & Reform Group. Departments needed to do more with less and investigate how to reform public services and share back office functions. Spending on health, schools and ODA would be protected from further reductions, in line with the policy set at the Spending Review 2010. Asked why the defence budget would not be protected in light of recent events, the PMS said that defence would remain a very large part of Government expenditure and the SDSR had set out a very clear plan for highly capable and flexible armed forces. The Government was not flinching from the fact that very difficult decisions would have to be taken.
Asked about the current economic situation and growth, the PMS said that it was the Office of Budget Responsibility’s job to forecast. There was to be a series of announcements on Industrial Strategy from the Department for Business in the coming weeks. It was the PM’s view that the economy was healing. The recent borrowing figures had been broadly in line with market expectations and the OBR had forecasted that borrowing would fall over this year.
Questioned on development and whether focus would switch to North Africa, the PMS said that cabinet had not discussed specific development projects. Algeria was discussed and the PMS set out the next steps in repatriating the Britons killed in the recent attack. The Cabinet also touched on the approach the PM had set out for North Africa more broadly; looking at help with political reform, economic governance and development aid. Britain would not deploy troops in a combat role in Mali but would consider additional logistical and surveillance support.
Emir of Qatar
Asked about the PM’s meeting with the Emir of Qatar, the PMS said he expected Syria to be discussed. The PM would explain our current approach.