Asked if control orders had been discussed at Cabinet that morning, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said it had not been, but that it had been discussed earlier in the month when there had been broad agreement on policy. He added there would be an announcement the following day.
Asked if the Prime Minister had met James Murdoch, the PMS answered that the Prime Minister met people working in the media at various times. Details of those meetings were published on a quarterly basis. He added, with regard to the decision on NewsCorp and BSkyB, that it was the decision of the Secretary of State for Culture, based on advice from Department for Culture Media and Sport officials and Ofcom, and that the Prime Minister had no role in it.
The PMS was asked what the Prime Minister thought of the GDP figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that morning. He answered that the Prime Minister agreed with the Chancellor that they were disappointing. He added that as the UK came out of recession, experience showed that a choppy period was to be expected and that too much should not be read into the figures, which were the first estimate of just one quarter.
Asked about the VAT rise, the PMS said that that policy was part of the Government’s programme for tackling the deficit, and that tackling the deficit was not an alternative to growth but a prerequisite. He added that the International Monetary Fund had said that morning that failure of advanced economies to develop consolidation plans was a key downside risk to growth.
Asked if there could there be a double-dip, the PMS said it was for the Office for Budget Responsibility to produce forecasts.
Asked about the impact of the weather on the figures, the PMS said the UK had suffered particularly bad December weather and that the ONS had said that accounted for an effect of about 0.5 per cent, with the services and construction sectors especially affected. The PMS said the Government had clearly set out its economic policy and that it had no intention of deviating from that. He added that the Government was also taking action to support growth in a number of ways, such as cutting corporation tax, considering burdens of regulation on business, looking at the Skills Strategy and Appenticeships, and by making trade a priority in all contact with other countries.
Asked whether Downing Street would be getting a cat, the PMS said no decision had been taken.
Asked if the Prime Minister was due to announce a new director of communications, the PMS said nothing was imminent.