Asked about the Ministry of Defence budgets, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Treasury would be laying supplementary estimates later this morning.
We had looked very hard at these issues during the SDSR, and we had been clear that we would need to deal with the problems in the Defence budget. The PMS said that our economic security and our national security were inextricably linked; dealing with the deficit and other economic problems was fundamental to ensuring that in the future we would be able to protect our national security effectively.
Asked if another £1billion black hole in the Defence budget had been found, the PMS replied that we had looked very hard at the issue at the time of the SDSR. There were significant problems with the Defence budget and we were seeking to address those problems.
On whether the problems were even worse than was first thought, the PMS said that we had not yet entered the spending period set out in the SDSR, which began in April this year. The MOD would need to live within their spending limits like all other Government departments.
When asked if the Government was still committed to giving £1billion of aid to India, the PMS said that we had always been very clear that we were committed to increasing our aid budget to 0.7% of GDP and we would stick to that. Some of the poorest people in the world lived in India and that’s why we would be maintaining a development programme there for a transitional period.
Asked why UK taxpayers should give money to countries such as India when they were indulging in space programmes for example, the PMS replied that there were many poor people in India and the Government had been clear about maintaining its commitment to the aid budget and its aid obligations.
On whether the UK had frozen the assets of President Mubarak, the PMS said that a request had to made in terms of asset freezing and people should speak to the Treasury for more details.
Asked who would need to make the request, the PMS said that there was normally an international effort and countries would work together to freeze assets.
Asked if the same process applied to British passport holders, the PMS advised people to speak to the Treasury. On whether the Prime Minister had a view on whether President Mubarak’s assets should be frozen, the PMS said that it was a legal issue and not one he would wish to speculate about.
Asked how the Government planned to make the Big Society work in Scotland, the PMS replied that this was about giving more responsibility to people. Some of the things that Government could do to give people greater responsibility, could operate north of the border, but Big Society was about giving power away, not central Government initiatives.
On whether the Big Society would apply in Scotland if certain frameworks did not exist north of the border, the PMS said that the Big Society was reflected in the approach the Government was taking on a range of issues. The Coalition Government had spoken from the very beginning about the founding principles of ‘freedom and responsibility’ and these could be seen in a lot of the policies being announced, such as free schools, increasing the opportunities for voluntary organisations to provide public services and reforms to the Health Service.
Asked if people in Scotland could set up ‘mutuals’ in the NHS the PMS said that he was not sure about the legal position on setting up mutuals in Scotland. Clearly, some issues were devolved, but this was about allowing the public to take the initiative, not about Government initiatives.
Asked about reports this morning concerning a ‘hotline’ between the Prime Minister and President Medvedev, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would be meeting the Russian Foreign Secretary tomorrow and there could be some more information following that meeting.