On the Cabinet, Queen's speech, economy, Informal European Council, bankers' bonuses, welfare reform bill and the Falklands.
The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the morning’s Cabinet had included:
- Discussion of the economy, including an update from the Chancellor
- An update from the Prime Minister on the Informal European Council meeting in the Hague
- Discussion of plans for the next parliamentary session and of a draft legislative programme
The PMS informed journalists that the Cabinet had discussed a draft legislative programme for the next session of Parliament. This programme would prioritise legislation essential for deficit reduction and take account of particular priorities under the Coalition agreement, including growth.
The programme had already been discussed by the relevant Cabinet committee and by the Coalition Committee the PMS said, and this was a chance for the full Cabinet to give their views on which bills should be included.
Asked if he could give an idea of what bills would be included in the Queen’s Speech or the date of the Speech, the PMS said he could not pre-empt the contents and had nothing to add to comments made by George Young in the House of Commons that the Speech would be in the Spring.
The PMS informed the assembled journalists that the Chancellor’s update to Cabinet on the economy had covered subjects including what is happening in the Eurozone, in the markets, the latest data for the UK, followed by a broad discussion of the economic situation.
The Chancellor had suggested further Cabinet discussion in the near future to take stock of departmental growth-supporting measures.
Informal European Council
Asked about the Prime Minister’s update to Cabinet on the Informal European Council meeting in Brussels, the PMS said it was in two main parts, regarding:
1. Growth and competitiveness
2. The intergovernmental agreement on fiscal union.
On the former, the Prime Minister had said there was positive discussion on matters including SMEs, jobs, and youth unemployment, offering an opportunity to learn from the experience of other countries - for example, youth unemployment in Holland is comparatively low. The Prime Minister had detected a new recognition in the European Council that growth was a really important issue and a determination to do something about it.
Confirming, when asked, that there had been Cabinet agreement on the Prime Minister’s stance of reserving the UK’s position on the use of EU institutions, the PMS said that Cabinet agreed that this position would act as leverage so that the institutions were not used in other areas such as the Single Market.
Asked if there had been praise for the Prime Minister from the Liberal Democrats on this stance, the PMS said that the Deputy Prime Minister had spoken and agreed with the approach that had been taken.
Asked whether the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions and for Northern Ireland had also taken part in this discussion, the PMS said they had.
When asked what co-operation could be expected between the Czech Republic and the UK on these legal issues, the PMS explained that the two countries had set out their own reasons for not signing up to the Treaty.
Asked if there had been any discussion in Cabinet of bankers’ bonuses, the PMS said there had been no substantive debate on the subject.
Welfare Reform Bill
Asked whether there was unanimity on the Welfare Reform Bill and the way ahead, the PMS confirmed the Bill had been discussed in Cabinet under parliamentary business and that the intention was to overturn all amendments.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought the deployment of HMS Dauntless in the South Atlantic was provocative to Argentina, the PMS replied no and, in response to a supplementary question, said there were no plans for the Prime Minister to visit the Falklands in the near future.