News story

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 19 October 2010

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Defence statement.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)

Asked if there would be more than 490,000 public sector redundancies in the Spending Review, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) advised people to wait for the Chancellor’s statement tomorrow. The PMS said that at the time of the Budget the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) made an assessment of the number of public sector job losses.

Asked if the figure of 490,000 job loses would go up, the PMS said there would be an OBR assessment later on in the Autumn, when they would release their new forecasts.

Asked about the possibility of public sector workers reducing their hours in order to keep their jobs, the PMS replied that people would need to wait until tomorrow to find out what the Government would be saying on the public sector workforce.

When asked what contacts there were between the OBR and the Treasury, the PMS said that people should speak to the Treasury about their contacts with the OBR, but the OBR’s forecasts would be independent.

Defence Statement

Asked why an experienced politician like the Prime Minister allowed himself to commit a ‘school boy error’ of letting sensitive government documents be photographed, the PMS said that he understood the ‘sensitive document’ in question was the statement that the Prime Minister had just given to Parliament.

Put that the Prime Minister had said in his statement that we aimed to bring in at the same time the carriers and the planes but also recognised that there would be a gap, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was talking about a capability gap and it was true also that we would aim to bring these in at the same time.  It was worth remembering what the Prime Minister had said at the start of the statement, that cancelling one aircraft carrier would have cost more than having two.

Asked if the Prime Minister had accepted that the aim was not going to happen, the PMS said that the Prime Minister did not accept that. The intention was that the aircraft and carriers would come in at the same time.

The PMS said that there was a gap in that we would not have the ability to fly aircraft from carriers for a period of time. As the Defence Secretary had said earlier today, we believed that was a manageable risk given our assessment of what we were likely to need in the coming years.

Asked if it was true that it would cost more money to cancel one aircraft carrier than to go ahead with two, the PMS replied that was the case; it would cost significantly more and that reflects the nature of the contract that was entered into by the MOD.

Asked if the Prime Minister had actually seen the BAE contract, the PMS said the Prime Minister had referred to a letter from BAE, to him. Asked who had signed the contract, the PMS said that it was an MOD contract. The PMS added that for a procurement decision of that size, it would have needed Ministerial clearance.

When asked if the Government had tried to renegotiate the contract, the PMS said that we had looked at the available options and where we had ended up we considered the best option.

Put that the Prime Minister referred to a change in RAF bases and then talked about returning troops from Germany, the PMS said as we brought people back from Germany, we would need somewhere to put them. There would be a rationalisation of the estate and the MOD would be undertaking a review to make sure they had the right bases in the right places.

Asked how quickly redundancy notices would go out to troops, the PMS said that the MOD was working through this process. The MOD was undertaking detailed work to identify the timing of the changes. Some service manpower reductions would be managed through natural turnover and some would be through redundancy.

The PMS said that this process would take some time and the MOD would be thinking how they carried that out in a way that made sure they had the right balance of skills needed.

Published 19 October 2010