Asked whether the Chancellor knew what the growth figures due out tomorrow would be, the PMS advised the assembled press to speak to the Treasury. The PMS said that the growth figures were not discussed at Cabinet.
Asked to characterise the comments made by the Chancellor at Cabinet, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had said that the situation was still difficult, but we were on the right track and that was supported by the IMF, OECD and the Bank of England’s backing of the Government’s plans.
The PMS added that if people looked at the international picture, at the Eurozone and continued concern about the US debt picture, we were on the right track.
Put that that had been a cautious assessment from the Chancellor, the PMS said that she would not get into any further detail, but added there were no surprises coming out of the discussion this morning.
On whether the Prime Minister was confident of avoiding a double-dip recession, the PMS reiterated that we were on the right track.
Asked if the Chancellor’s comment that things were still difficult was a reference to the deficit or the economy as a whole, the PMS replied that dealing with a record deficit was bound to be difficult. The PMS said that the Chancellor was making general comments about the economy and she was summarising what was said, not directly quoting Ministers. Asked if the Business Secretary had contributed to the discussion, the PMS said that he had.
Asked if there had been any reference made at Cabinet to reports in the media over the weekend about Coalition Ministers not getting on or the AV campaign, the PMS said that it had not been discussed and it was business as usual at Cabinet.
Asked about a report in the Times that claimed that Lib Dem Ministers were being frozen out of key decisions, the PMS said that the Coalition was working very well and she did not recognise those remarks.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the Syrian President still had a role to play in the future of his country after being clear that Qadhafi should play no part in the future of Libya, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary would update the House this afternoon on all the issues regarding the Middle East and North Africa. The Foreign Secretary had issued a statement on Syria last night.
Asked why Syria should be treated differently to Libya, the PMS replied that the Foreign Secretary had made clear that every country and every situation was different.
On what had been discussed at Cabinet in terms of Libya, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary gave an update; the general tone had been that there were grounds for optimism and progress was being made. The PMS added that it was felt that the alliance was holding up well, but clearly we needed to turn up the pressure; we may need to prepare for the long haul, but the mission was going in the right direction.
Asked what had happened recently that was any different from what had happened six weeks ago, the PMS replied that in the last few days, the US had announced drones taking part in missions, the Italians, French and UK had sent mentoring teams, the Italians would now be taking part in bombing missions, the ITNC were stepping up their contact with the outside world and there had been some success in Misrata.
Asked if the Italians had actually started bombing missions, the PMS advised people to check with the MOD. Asked if there were signs of the mission going to plan, the PMS replied that the phrase that characterised the situation was that there were grounds for optimism.
On whether UN Resolution 1973 was being properly or successfully implemented following heavy fighting in Misrata, the PMS said that the situation in Misrata was of course a concern, but this was one reason behind Liam Fox’s visit to the United States; to see what more could be done. We were doing as much as we could through the alliance.
Asked about military being involved for the long haul, the PMS said that it was a case of sensible planning to ensure that we were enforcing UNSCR 1973.
Put that the impression given by leaders at the beginning of the process was that the campaign would only take a matter of days, the PMS said that Qadhafi was being put under increasing pressure and we were exploring all the options.
Asked if the Crown Prince of Bahrain was now not attending the Royal Wedding due to pressure from the British Government over human rights, the PMS said that it was her understanding that it had been a decision made by the Crown Prince of Bahrain. The PMS said that invitations for the wedding were handled by the Palace.
Asked if there were any heightened security fears due to events in Northern Ireland, the PMS said that security arrangements were in place and she would not be getting into any more detail.
Asked if the Prime Minister was still looking to toughen up the law on trade union ballots, the PMS replied that the Government position had not changed; there were no current plans for tougher laws to restrict strike action. The Prime Minister had made clear in the Commons recently, that we were happy to look at the arguments, but the current laws were working well.
Asked about Franco-Italian plans to impose border restrictions within Europe, the PMS replied that a view had not been expressed at Cabinet.