Put that the Airports Economic Regulation Bill was missing from Sir George Young’s statement to the House this morning, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the first stage of the process regarding this bill was for the Department for Transport to look at what changes were needed to improve the situation for passengers in airports. There was then the possibility of legislative changes following on from that in order that those proposals could be implemented. As a general rule, it was preferable that things got done without legislation.
Asked if John Redwood’s intervention on Capital Gains Tax (CGT) was helpful, the PMS said that there were some words on CGT in the coalition document, and there would be an announcement in the Budget.
Asked why the Prime Minister thought that the referendum on whether the Welsh Assembly got more powers should be held in 2011, the PMS said that the Prime Minister said yesterday that he believed a referendum should be held next year and that there should be a free and open debate in Wales to allow that to happen. Yesterday, the Welsh Secretary wrote to the First Minister on the timetable and for more details it was best to speak to the Wales Office.
Asked if the Government was sympathetic to calls for a delay in the rollout of work assessment tests for people seeking to claim Employment and Support Allowance, the PMS said that the coalition agreement had set out the policy in regards to this. The rollout was already happening, and the proposal was that all claimants of incapacity benefit should be assessed for their readiness to work.
Asked when there would be a referendum on AV, the PMS said that people were getting a bit ahead of themselves with regard to process; we would first have to publish a bill, which would then be introduced to Parliament. We would wait for that to happen before we set a timetable for a referendum.
Asked if it was the Government’s intention to include the boundary constituency changes in the same bill on electoral reform as AV, the PMS said that the expectation was that AV and boundary changes would be in the same bill. There could be further bills on other aspects of electoral reform, but the two issues highlighted would be addressed in the first bill.
Put that there was a considerable amount of work to be done on the boundaries issue, the PMS said that the detail was being worked through and the plan was to introduce the bill as quickly as possible.
Asked if boundary changes would be put to a referendum, the PMS said no.
Asked if there would be a referendum on AV once the boundary review had been concluded, the PMS said that people would have to wait for the relevant department to set out the details. As a general rule, the coalition agreement set out the Government’s position on various matters; the Queen’s Speech yesterday set out how we would implement policy, but as was normal, departments would do work on the details of the proposals and introduce legislation afterwards. It was not possible to give out any details before those things had happened.
Asked if the bill would be introduced this year or next year, the PMS said that the expectation was that the bill would be introduced later on this year.
Chancellor’s Meeting with Secretary Geithner
Asked what would be on the agenda at the meeting and if there was any government reaction to Michel Barnier’s proposals today, the PMS said that Michel Barnier hadn’t published the proposals yet; the Government was in favour of a bank levy and it was good that there was growing international support. We would wait to see the proposals before commenting on the detail.
As to the Chancellor’s meeting with Secretary Geithner, it was best to speak to the Treasury about the agenda.
Asked if there would be a Bloody Sunday announcement today, the PMS said that there would be an announcement shortly.
Asked what was happening with regard to Ministerial cars and red boxes, the PMS said that today’s story about red boxes having to be transported by car even if a Minister might go by train was untrue. Ministers would be encouraged to use public transport when possible, but there would be a pool of cars rather than each Minister having their own car.
Asked if PMQs would continue to be every Wednesday afternoon for half an hour, the PMS said that that was the current plan.