Asked about gross domestic product (GDP) figures published this morning, the PMS reiterated what the Chancellor had said: that today’s figures are an encouraging sign the economy is healing. Asked a follow up question on whether the Prime Minister was concerned about the construction industry, the PMS said there remained a tough economic backdrop, but pointed to the government’s housing and infrastructure policies which are aimed at boosting this particular industry. Asked about whether there had been disproportionate growth in the service sector, he pointed out there had been growth in manufacturing figures in March. More widely, he said a million and a quarter new private sector jobs had been created since 2010.
Asked about the Communications Data Bill, the PMS said it was important that the police and security services were able to respond to the scale of technological changes. He said discussions were ongoing in government on how best to respond to those technological challenges. The Prime Minister understood there were sensitive issues around this area and the right thing to do was to discuss them in detail.
Asked about Jo Johnson’s new role as head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, the PMS confirmed Jo Johnson had been appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office, in addition to his role as an Assistant Government Whip. Responding a follow up question regarding salary, the PMS said Mr Johnson would retain his current Whip’s salary, with no additional salary. Asked whether Mr Johnson would be called before a Select Committee, the PMS said that would be a matter for Select Committees.
Asked if the government was looking at all options to deport Abu Qatada, including temporarily leaving the European Convention of Human Rights, the PMS said the Prime Minister had been very clear that all options to deport this dangerous man should be considered. He reminded journalists that the Home Secretary had set out a process based on a treaty agreed with the Jordanian government, as well as seeking permission from the Supreme Court to appeal.