On Saudi, child benefit, Scotland and who's running the country.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would be raising the issues of women’s rights and democracy on his visit to Saudi Arabia, The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he would have broad discussions, deepening the relationship with our strategic partner in the Middle East.
Asked whether there were any defence deals lined up, the PMOS said that there would be meetings with Saudi businesses but she was not expecting any announcements. Questioned about a specific air defence deal, she said that she did not have specific details.
Asked who was accompanying the Prime Minister, the PMOS said that he would be accompanied by civil servants but there was no business delegation or other ministers on the trip.
The PMOS was then asked whether Iran would be discussed, to which she replied that it was likely to be; with focus on keeping up pressure on the regime.
Asked why the visit had been delayed, she said that the Prime Minister had intended to visit at the time of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in October but the Crown Prince had died and that trip was postponed.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was ‘rowing back’ on the issue of capping child benefit, the PMOS said that she did not agree with this premise and said that that Prime Minister had made clear his position in his interview (in the House magazine); and that this was a matter for the Chancellor.
Asked then whether the Prime Minister was indeed concerned about a ‘cliff edge’ and whether he would therefore change the policy, she replied that this was something that he had spoken about previously and there was still time to look at the issue before change comes in.
Asked whether Jeremy Hunt was correct to say that there was a review of the issue, she said that we have said previously that we would look at the issues. Then asked whether No 10 or the Prime Minister had ‘sanctioned’ Jeremy Hunt’s comments, she replied that Jeremy Hunt was a member of the Government and entitled to give interviews.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought that the proposals were unfair to mothers who stay at home, she said he had spoken about the ‘cliff edge’ issue before but he was clear that top earners should pay their share. Pressed on whether the Government would consider tapering child benefit proposals, she said that the Prime Minster had made his position clear in his interview; she would not pre-empt the Chancellor’s Budget.
Asked whether any proposals would be revenue neutral, the PMOS said that this would be a matter for the Chancellor but we were clear that we need to pay down the deficit.
Asked whether Scottish independence would mean the end of the pound for Scotland, the PMOS said that we had set out our consultation on the legal position and that the shape of independence was a matter for Alex Salmond.
Then asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned that issue of the pound would damage the rest of the UK, she said that there was a strong economic case for the Union but it is up to Scotland to detail any currency issue.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would resign if Scotland votes for independent (as suggested by Lord Ashcroft), she said that the important thing to focus on was the consultation.
Asked who was running the country given that the Prime Minister was in Saudi Arabia and the Deputy Prime Minister was in Ireland, the PMOS relied that the Prime Minister was always in charge.