The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on spending cuts, prisons and sentencing, and torture.
Asked about the leaked Treasury document which said there could be up to 1.3 million jobs lost over the next 5 years due to planned spending cuts, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that the Treasury had put out a statement pointing to the Office of Budget Responsibility’s forecast, which showed that unemployment would fall in every year and that employment would rise.
Asked if Downing Street was disputing that there could be job losses in the public sector of around 10% in the next 5 years, the PMS referred reporters to the Treasury for exact figures and made clear that plans made before the Budget stated that public sector employment was falling. Ahead of the decisions taken in the Budget, public sector employment was already falling because the public expenditure restraint was already programmed in. The broader point was that it was not possible to continue funding jobs in the public sector on the back of an unsustainable budget deficit. In order to see growth and employment in this country over the long term, we needed to tackle the budget deficit.
Asked about public/private sector figures, the PMS said that there was an overall employment number published in the Red Book, but it was not broken down into the public and private sector. Under the government’s plans we would expect to see a rebalancing from the public to the private sector, both in terms of share of national output and in employment.
Asked about areas in the UK that were more reliant on the public sector, the PMS said that this was precisely why the government had made the announcement it made both in the Budget last week, and yesterday about the Regional Growth Fund. Some regions of the UK could be more affected by the cuts, therefore it was important to take action to support private sector employment in those areas. We had the National Insurance Contribution holiday, which would be regionalised, and the fund announced yesterday. There would be other measures in due course and government departments would be thinking carefully about what they could do to support growth in all regions.
Put that the government had boasted about being more transparent, the PMS said that the government had lived up to those claims by producing more information in the Budget document than had been produced in the past.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that burglars should be sent to jail, the PMS said that there was a review into sentencing underway, which was announced in the coalition document, and we should wait to see the conclusion of that review. The Prime Minister said yesterday that the justice system was there for the people of the country, and the people of the country needed to have faith in that system, and needed to feel that people were punished in the way they should be. Equally we needed to do as much as possible to rehabilitate people, because at the moment we had a situation where a large number of people who came out of prison would reoffend in the first year.
Asked which people should be sent to jail, the PMS said that people should wait to see the review’s findings.
Asked if the Prime Minister endorsed all of the Justice Secretary’s comments, the PMS said that the Justice Secretary spoke for the government on these matters.
Put that the Prime Minister had changed his mind about punishment and prisons since the election, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not changed his mind, and what the Justice Secretary had said was consistent with what the Prime Minister had said. The Prime Minister was asked about this yesterday and set out his view; there was a place for short-term sentences, particularly in the case of persistent offenders, but we needed to also see what we could do to make community punishment more meaningful.
Put that the Justice Secretary had said that it was virtually impossible to do anything meaningful with someone serving a short-term sentence, the PMS said that the Justice Secretary had also said that there was a review underway and that the government would look at the findings of that review.
Asked what the point of the Justice Secretary’s speech was, the PMS said that the Justice Secretary wanted to set out his approach, which ministers often do.
Put that there was confusion from the government on this subject, the PMS said that the government’s position was clear and had been set out in the coalition document; there would be a review and we would look at the conclusions of that review.
Asked if there was anything further to say about an inquiry into whether Britain was complicit in torturing detainees, the PMS said that this was dealt with yesterday and there was nothing further to add.