The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Chancellor had said today that his Spending Review Statement to Parliament would make clear the Government's ruthless focus on priorities, with no relaxation of fiscal discipline. He had stressed that even with lower overall growth in public spending than in the 2002 Spending Review, the savings being made on debt interest, unemployment and through increased efficiency would release resources to invest in the future of the economy and vital public services, while continuing to meet the strict fiscal rules.
Asked about the handling arrangements for the Butler Report on Wednesday, the PMOS said that letters had been sent to the Opposition this morning inviting them in from 6am on Wednesday to look at the Report (the same arrangements as for the Hutton Inquiry). Lord Butler had told us that he was planning to provide the Government with the final version of his Report - in the form in which it would be published - on Tuesday. As with the Hutton Inquiry, it was anticipated that Lord Butler would hold a press conference. This would take place on Wednesday. With the Speaker's permission, the Prime Minister would make a Statement a little later on in the day. This would give MPs time to read the Report themselves. Asked at what time the Prime Minister's Statement would be, the PMOS said that the details were still being finalised. Ultimately, it would depend on the timing of Lord Butler's press conference, which was a matter for Lord Butler himself.
Asked what would be discussed at the UK-Italian Summit on Tuesday, the PMOS said that this was an annual event. Last year's Summit had taken place in Rome. No doubt the issue of Iraq would be discussed, in addition to the Middle East and European matters.
Questioned about the Prime Minister's meeting with Chancellor on Thursday, the PMOS said that the two leaders met up regularly for bilaterals, usually every six months or so. Asked if another tripartite meeting between the Prime Minister, Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac had been planned, the PMOS said it went without saying that the Prime Minister valued his meetings with Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac. However, he was unable to point to any specific arrangements at this stage.
Asked if a decision had been taken regarding the UK's EU Commissioner, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware. Asked by CNN if a decision was awaiting a Cabinet reshuffle, the PMOS congratulated the journalist on the clever way in which he had asked a reshuffle question. However, his usual rules regarding this issue would apply.
Asked if it was likely that the Chancellor would remain in his post for a further five years in the light of reports today that the Prime Minister had decided to serve a full third term if elected, the PMOS said that the simple message was as follows: stories would come and stories would go. The Prime Minister believed it was his role - and indeed the Government's role - to get on with the job that the electorate expected them to do. There would always be difficult times in Government and there would always be difficult issues to be faced - whether it was Iraq, Europe or delivering on the domestic agenda. The last few weeks had shown that we were moving forward on Iraq. We were not claiming that the situation on the ground was perfect. However, it was clear that progress was being made. We had also moved forward on Europe. The Government was now involved in gradually publishing its improvement plans for our public services, which today's CSR would make possible. That showed that the Government was getting on with the job of doing what it had been elected to do - and, in the Prime Minister's view, that was what people should focus on. Stories would come and they would go. In the meantime, he was getting on with his job.
Original PMOS briefings are © Crown Copyright. Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. Click-use licence number C02W0004089. Material is reproduced from the original 10 Downing Street source, but may not be the most up-to-date version of the briefings, which might be revised at the original source. Users should check with the original source in case of revisions. Comments are © Copyright contributors. Everything else is © Copyright Downing Street Says.
Contact Sam Smith.