The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) began by reading out a statement from the Chancellor. The Chancellor said that his Budget would be tough but fair. This was an unavoidable Budget because of the mess the Government had to clear up. So the Coalition Government would take responsibility for balancing Britain’s books within five years. We would do this fairly, protecting children and pensioners and ensuring the richest contribute the most. And it meant getting enterprise going because it was business, not Government that would create the jobs of the future.
The PMS said that the Chancellor took the Cabinet through the Budget and the measures in it. The Chancellor was keen to emphasise the message that this Budget would be tough but fair and that it would achieve two aims.
The first aim was to deal with the deficit and the debt problem and the second was to build a platform for a long-term recovery. The Chancellor also emphasised the process around the Budget including the innovation of having an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which had to sign off and settle their forecasts earlier in the process. This meant that the Budget had been agreed much earlier than Budgets in the past.
The PMS said that the Cabinet had agreed that this was a Budget for the full Parliament and a Budget that would end uncertainty for people, by being clear on what would be done to tackle the deficit.
The Chancellor also said that the document itself would be a third of the size of previous documents.
Asked what “balancing the books”, meant, the PMS replied that it meant getting to grips with the deficit. The Chancellor had said in the past that he wanted to see a significant acceleration over and above the previous Government’s plans.
On whether “balancing the books” referred to this financial year, the PMS replied that the Chancellor was talking about the next five years. This was about setting out the course of fiscal policy for the Parliament. The Chancellor would set out his fiscal mandate today; this would express the new target for fiscal policy. It was then for the OBR to make an assessment against that fiscal mandate, on the probability of the Government meeting its fiscal target.
Put that the red book would be a third smaller and what would be missing, the PMS said that in previous Budgets there was quite a lot of rehearsal of current policy. Today’s Budget would focus on the announcements today.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was due to meet President Medvedev on Friday, the PMS replied that we would let people know about bilaterals when they had been fully fixed.