Prime Minister’s visit to the South West
Asked why the Prime Minister was visiting a junior school today rather than a secondary school in need of building work, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister was going to this particular school because the head teacher had sent in a submission to the spending review.
Asked what the teacher had proposed, the PMS said that the proposals were around school inspections, efficiencies and investment.
Office for Budget Responsibility
Asked when the Government became aware that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had made changes to their forecast regarding job losses, the PMS said that reporters should speak to the Treasury about the process leading up to the Budget. The most important point was that this was the OBR’s forecast and it was independent.
Asked if the Government had told the civil service that no one would get promoted as the OBR suggested, the PMS said no.
Put that the OBR had also assumed that the Government would put less into peoples’ pensions, the PMS said that reporters should speak to the OBR about their forecasts. There was a review of public sector pensions being led by John Hutton.
Asked if the OBR was wrong in its assumptions, the PMS said that in the context of their forecast the OBR was making some assumptions.
Asked if the Government had told OBR to come up with a different number, the PMS said that it was OBR’s forecast.
Put that the OBR needed to be put on to a statutory footing, the PMS said that that had always been the intention. The process prior to that would be that Sir Alan Budd would provide advice to the Treasury on the establishment of the OBR, which would feed into their proposals that would form the basis of the bill.
Asked when the bill would be, the PMS said it was most likely to be in the autumn.
Asked if the Treasury Select Committee (TSC) would be allowed to select the head of the OBR, the PMS said that he was sure the TSC would have ample opportunity to speak to the OBR head once appointed and cross-examine them after the publication of future forecasts.
Asked about who would appoint the head of the OBR, the PMS said reporters should speak to the Treasury about process.
Asked what sort of role the OBR would have during the spending review, the PMS said that the OBR would not have a significant role in the spending review; its role concerned fiscal policy and producing independent forecasts.
Chief of Defence Staff
Asked if a new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would be announced next week, the PMS said that a process was underway to appoint a new CDS, and we would make an announcement when ready.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been consulted about who the new CDS should be and if he would interview them, the PMS said that the Prime Minister clearly had a role in this appointment. The likely candidates were well known to the Prime Minister and he met with them regularly.
British Ambassador in Beirut
Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the blog posted by the British Ambassador in Beirut regarding Hezbollah, the PMS said that the Foreign Office had dealt with this; the Ambassador had been expressing a personal view and the blog had been taken down.
Put that the Prime Minister had been urged to overrule the nomination of the openly gay Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey Johns for the next Bishop of Southwark, the PMS said that there were changes made to the process under the last government, and effectively the Prime Minister accepted the name that came forward. The Prime Minister had no role in the appointment of Bishops.