The PMS informed the Lobby that the Prime Minister had met the Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg this morning, and the Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt yesterday evening. The focus of the respective discussions was the recent events in Algeria and the EU budget. The Prime Minister is now on his way back to the UK.
In other Departmental business, the PMS announced that the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill had been published, reforms announced to tackle aggressive bailiffs and new planning rules published to help Free Schools to access their preferred sites as swiftly as possible.
Asked about the growth figures published today, the PMS said that they were a reminder of the very difficult economic situation Britain faces as a result of significant headwinds from the Eurozone and the legacy of the domestic economic crisis.
He highlighted that both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have been in Davos banging the drum for British business and making the case for the sort of open, free-trade, global economy which is so important to outward looking nations like the UK.
The PMS said that the PM had very clearly set out his views on tax avoidance in his speech yesterday: that there is nothing anti-business about making sure businesses paying the right amount of tax. The PM was making an argument about why competitive, fair and transparent tax regimes are good for the economy and he will continue to make that argument throughout the presidency of the G8.
The PMS highlighted that the PM believes that we have absolutely the right economic policy and the right decisions have been made. To illustrate this point, the PMS said that more is already being done to invest in infrastructure projects - such as an extra £20 billion since the 2010 Spending Review, which has, in no small part, been possible due to the actions the government has taken to reduce current spending.
Asked about the proposals on equal marriage, the PMS said that the PM has set out his views on numerous occasions, including that it should be for all churches and religious institutions to reach their own decisions - they would not be forced to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. The PMS confirmed that there will be a free vote on the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill in Parliament.