Cabinet, Afghanistan, honours, benefits, pensions, Tsars were discussed at this press briefing
The PMS detailed the discussions at Cabinet. The Foreign Secretary reported on the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan and Embassy security. The Chancellor provided an update on the economy and the Eurozone. There was a discussion of the honours system led by Sir Bob Kerslake. The Work and Pensions Secretary outlined the launch of pensions auto enrolment and the Scottish Secretary provided an update on discussions of plans for a referendum on independence.
Asked whether the UK Government was consulted on the NATO decision to change the manner of joint operations with Afghan forces, the PMS said that there had been a number of attacks in recent weeks including the attack on Camp Bastion. We kept our procedures under review and took the safety of our armed forces very seriously. Commanders on the ground judged it necessary to tighten up the procedures, but the changes would not have a significant impact on the role of UK forces or their operations. Operational procedures had been looked at over recent days and weeks and were discussed with the Defence Secretary last week.
Asked whether the UK still trusted its allies in the Afghan forces, the PMS said that we worked very closely with the Afghan forces on a daily basis. In the light of recent events it was obviously sensible to look at procedures and deem whether they were the right ones.
Asked whether there was any discussion of troop drawdown at Cabinet, the PMS said there was not. Combat operations would end by the end of 2014 and there was no change to the position.
Asked whether ISAF forces would hand security responsibility over to Afghan forces in 2014 regardless of the situation, the PMS said that the current process was working. Afghan forces were increasingly taking over the security of the country. There had been a number of recent incidents, but that should not overshadow the progress made.
Asked what Sir Bob Kerslake said on the honours system, the PMS said that there was a quinquennial review undertaken by a committee chaired by Sir Bob Kerslake. The discussion was an opportunity for the Cabinet to feed in its views.
Asked whether the forfeiture committee was brought up at Cabinet, the PMS said that it was not.
Asked whether there were any plans to change or modify the flat rate pension, the PMS said a White Paper would be published later in the year and it would outline the key features of the system.
Asked whether the PM had asked for a review, the PMS said that the White Paper had not been published yet as work was still on going, but the policy remained to move to a single tier pension system.
Asked about speculation that the Government was actively considering not uprating benefits in line with inflation, the PMS said that benefit levels were reviewed every year. There was an announcement made setting out the levels for the following year. An important exception to this was the triple lock on pensions, which was a commitment for the Parliament.
Asked why the PM appointed Government Tsars, the PMS said that it was sometimes good to get the support of people with particular expertise to improve policy making.