Asked if the suicide bombing in Pakistan would affect plans for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said we had an internationally agreed strategy on Afghanistan which would see us transitioning by the end of 2014.
Asked who would decide when David Laws suspension would start, the PMS advised that the Committee took the decision on the punishment.
Wine cellar review
Asked for more detail on the wine cellar review, the PMS said the conclusions of a review on the government’s wine cellar would be published today. The PMS went on to confirm that more expensive wine would be sold to replenish stocks.
Asked if the UK would have to contribute to the Greek bail out, the PMS said that the Chancellor had set out the position - we would not be contributing.
Asked if the decision by Downing Street and the Home Office to direct the Met to conduct an investigation raised questions about the political interference in the operating of the police force, the PMS said that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary had agreed with Sir Paul Stephenson that this should happen; that was not direction. This was a very high profile case that had been going on for some time and there was a huge amount of public interest in the case. We had been clear as a government that we would do everything we could to support the family.
Asked if it was unusual for Downing Street to get directly involved in an investigation, the PMS said that this was an exceptional case. The Metropolitan police were going to review the case. The review and the way they approached it was an operational matter and something for the Met police.
Asked if there would be an impact on the Police and Social Responsibility Bill, the PMS said the fact the Metropolitan police were going to conduct this review had been agreed by them. It was done at the request of the Home Secretary but it had been agreed by the Metropolitan police and Sir Paul Stephenson.
Asked if there had been contact with the government of Portugal, the PMS said there had been contact between the two governments since the start of the case.
Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that it was a good use of the police budget, the PMS said there were specific arrangements to allow this to be funded by the Home Office.
Asked if the action was driven by the tabloid agenda, the PMS said we were responding to a request from the family in a particularly exceptional case. The PMS went on to say the request had come from a family who had been through a great deal and who were asking for the help of the government because their daughter was missing. The Prime Minister had been clear that he wanted to do everything he could to support the family.
Asked if the government was concerned that the French and German economies were growing faster than the UK’s, the PMS said that it was good news because mainland Europe was our major trading partner.
The PMS said that as we sought to rebalance our economy we would need to export more. This was reliant on demand from countries like France and Germany. The PMS went on to say that if you looked at the situation in the UK, people had to remember that we had the largest deficit, unprecedented levels of public and personal debt and a very significant banking crisis. We had always been clear that there was a lot of work to do on rebalancing the economy and getting it moving again.
Asked if the large deficit was the reason why we were not in the same position as France and Germany, the PMS said over the past few years we faced particular problems in the UK. We were particularly affected by the banking crisis because of the large size of our financial sector, we had a particularly large housing boom and we had particularly high levels of personal debt. There were a whole range of factors that we were seeking to address.
Asked if the Government was worried that the deficit wouldn’t be wiped out, the PMS said the OBR’s forecast at the time of the Budget showed the Government would meet its fiscal mandate a year early. The PMS went on to say that gave us confidence that we would meet our fiscal objectives.
Asked what lessons could be learned from France and Germany, the PMS said one thing that Germany did was deal with it’s deficit. They were also, arguably, less reliant on a single sector and had a broader industrial base, something we were trying to achieve in rebalancing our economy.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that we were the sick man of Europe, the PMS said we did have particular problems in this country. The PMS went on to say we’re trying to put in place a strategy that meant we would be in a much better position in the years to come.