The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) outlined what the Prime Minister would cover in his speech at Davos the next day.
Asked whether the Prime Minister still believed the UK was out of the economic danger zone, the PMS said he had been making a specific point about speculation in sovereign debt markets, and the importance of putting in place a credible plan for deficit reduction, which had been done.
Asked if the UK was facing a return to recession, the PMS said the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) were based on the first estimate for one quarter which showed negative growth, and that one generally saw a choppy period when coming out of recession. The PMS added that the economy had been based on high levels of consumption and significant levels of debt. That needed to be changed to a new model based around savings, investments and trade - a broader economic model, not one based on just a single sector of the economy.
Asked how long this would take, the PMS answered that there was no specific timeframe, but that the consolidation plan in the Budget, which was part of the economic plan, would take place over the period of this Parliament. He added that moving to an economy based on a broader set of industries and sectors in all regions of the economy would take time. The approach was to put in place the conditions to allow that. The priority to achieve that was a credible fiscal policy and also the creation of the right incentives for business, such as on employment regulation, and reducing corporation tax over a number of years.
Asked whether the Government was saying that the recovery would take longer than it had hoped, and that things would get tougher before they got better, the PMS repeated that no timeframe had been put on the recovery by the Government and that forecasts were for the Office for Budget Responsibility. He added that the Prime Minister’s New Year message had made clear that this would be a tough year, that the fiscal consolidation plan was being implemented and that involved some difficult decisions on public spending. He said there needed to be an adjustment in the economy which would take time.
He was asked what confidence he had that consumers would have confidence to spend in light of the ONS statistics. The PMS said consumption in the British economy had traditionally been robust.
The PMS was asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was appropriate for the Business Secretary to joke about bankers. He replied that it was just that - a joke.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s reaction was to the union response that the new employment tribunal regulations were a “sackers’ charter”, the PMS replied that it was in fact a “hirers’ charter” and that the Government was removing regulation and thereby making it easier for small businesses to take on people. The amount of red tape caused by employment law was a major issue for small businesses and discouraged them from employing people. This would ensure that more people were recruited.
Asked about the Chancellor’s comments on fuel duty and the Prime Minister’s view, the PMS answered that the Chancellor would make his decision in the Budget.