Put that the Deputy Prime Minister seemed to be trying to calm people down this morning by saying that the cuts amounted to 6% each year over the next four years, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Deputy Prime Minister had been setting out the position; these were significant cuts by any standard and the reason they were necessary was because of the mess the public finances were in. It was true that the spending review would be setting out plans for public spending for the next four years, and we would deliver those reductions in spending over those four years.
Asked if there was a change in the political message from saying there would be savage cuts to cuts not really being that bad, the PMS said that there was no change in the message; people should be under no illusion that this would be incredibly challenging. This was not something that would happen over night, it would have to happen over the next four years.
Phone hacking allegations
Put that the Home Secretary had said earlier this week that the Government position on the phone hacking allegations was to let the police get on with their job, but that the Deputy Prime Minister had said this morning that police should investigate new allegations as quickly as possible, and asked why there had been a change, the PMS said that there had been no change. The Deputy Prime Minister was saying the same thing as the Home Secretary; that the police should get on with their job.
Asked if there had been any change in position due to a piece in one of the papers this morning, the PMS said that it was a matter for the police to decide whether or not there was, as John Yates had said, “material new evidence”.
Put that it was a matter for the Prime Minister as his Director of Communications had effectively been accused of lying to Parliament, the PMS said that there was nothing in today’s newspapers that changed the position.
Burning of Koran
Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on the US pastor calling on people to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of 9/11, the PMS said that primarily this was an issue for the US, but the government’s view was that we would not condone the burning of any book. We would strongly oppose any attempt to offend members of any religious or ethnic group; we were committed to religious tolerance.