The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMS) briefed the lobby on the morning’s cabinet meeting which took place ahead of the budget. He said that the Chancellor had set out the economic case and that it was vital in tough times to stick to the course and tackle the deficit while continuing to support aspiration. He said there had been strong agreement around the table; confirmed that a number of minister had discussed various points and that it had been around an hour long. He also told them that Cyprus had not been discussed today, but it had been discussed yesterday.
The PMS said that these were mixed figures but pointed to the positives:
Unemployment was down 136,000 in the last year; since May 2010, 1.25 million extra jobs had been created; along with 1 million apprenticeships; and 100,000 young people had been given work experience through youth contracts. He told journalists that at the heart of the government’s economy strategy is the creation of conditions for private sector-led recovery.
When asked about press hostility to a Royal Charter, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s view as set out in the House on Monday remained: that this was a workable solution which had been agreed with cross-party support and it was time for the press to get on and set up the independent self-regulator.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned by the vote in the Cypriot parliament yesterday, the PMS said that it was clearly in everyone’s interests for Cyprus to tackle its financial difficulties and that there was stability in the Eurozone - especially as a major export market for the UK. He said that discussions were ongoing in Cyprus and he was not going to pre-empt those.
Asked whether a potential Russian bail-out was worrying, the PMS pointed out that Russia has been giving financial assistance to Cyprus for some time. He said that there had not been discussions with Chancellor Merkel or other Eurozone leaders this week.
Asked if the Prime Minister had discussions with anyone about the alleged chemical or biological weapons (CBW) attacks in Syria, the PMS confirmed that British authorities were working with a range of international partners to establish the facts. He referred lobby to the FCO statement issued yesterday and said that the Prime Minister’s view is that any use of CBW would be entirely unacceptable and would force us to reconsider our approach.