The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) gave an update on Cabinet. Asked whether the economy was discussed, the PMS said there had not been an update on this, but that the Chancellor was present. He said that the Leader of the House talked through Parliamentary business, focussing in particular on the Queen’s Speech. Lord Young briefed the cabinet on a report he would shortly publish called ‘Growing your business’, which would focus on how government could better support small and medium-sized enterprises. There was a brief mention of Private Members bills but no reference was made to Europe.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s reaction to Lord Lawson’s comments on Europe, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister had set out his position on Europe on a number of occasions. He had made it clear that there would be an in/out referendum in the next Parliament. He had also made it clear that he would continue to make the argument and push for reform in Europe in order to make Europe more open, competitive and flexible. The Prime Minister would be pushing to get the best deal for Britain, and had staunchly defended the rebate. Asked whether the Prime Minister would legislate on the issue of Europe, the PMS said that work would be undertaken on draft legislation before the next election.
Asked whether the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall would attend the Queen’s Speech, the PMS referred press to the House of Commons.
The PMS confirmed that the Prime Minister would be travelling to Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in November. He said that the Prime Minister thought that this was the right thing to do for the Commonwealth, which is important, and that he would go there to emphasise that the Sri Lankan government would need to make concrete progress on human rights, renconciliation and political settlement. The Palace confirmed this morning that the Queen would be represented by the Prince of Wales at the meeting.
The PMS said that the Prime Minister’s view remains unchanged. He stands by the Royal Charter, that was proposed by government and supported by all sides of the House, and which has been submitted to the Privy Council. Subsequent to that, a second Royal Charter drawn up by the newspaper industry has been proposed and has been published on the Privy Council website for consultation. There will be a discussion in the Privy Council by Privy Councillors of the issues at hand. Rather than have two meetings of the Privy Council, there will be one meeting of the Privy Council, at which both versions of the Royal Charter will be discussed.
There is a commitment within the Coalition Agreement to introduce a register of lobbyists interests. That still remains part of the Coalition Agreement and it was referenced in the mid-year review. As well as that, this government has taken large steps to be far more open and transparent in terms of the data and information it publishes and work is ongoing on this important issue.
The PMS said that as a police investigation is underway that he couldn’t comment on this. Asked about whether Nigel Evans would remain in his post as Deputy Speaker, the PMS said that this would be a matter for the Speakers Office.
Asked whether the PM regretted meeting the Dalai Lama last year, the PMS said that it was entirely reasonable for the Prime Minister to decide who he meets, and that this reflects the government’s approach of pursuing dialogue, discussion and of collecting a wide range of viewpoints on a wide range of issues. He said that government regularly discusses issues of importance with the Chinese, and that the Prime Minister aimed to visit China before the end of the year. In 2012, Chinese investment in the UK reached 8 billion dollars, four times the previous total, and UK exports to China grew by 13.4%, which is more than any other European country. The PMS said that government wanted to establish a stronger relationship with China, recognising that it was in the interest of both parties to manage their differences with respect and to cooperate as much as possible.