Put that the Foreign Secretary ought to have reassessed his plans to authorise the rescue attempt of British aid worker Linda Norgrove, the PMS pointed out that the Prime Minister had addressed this in his press conference adding that the issue had been kept under constant review, COBRA had met 12 times and provided updated advice, but that had not led to a change in strategy.
Asked how updates on Linda Norgrove had been received, the PMS referred the media to the comments made by the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons today.
Asked if the Foreign Secretary had the opportunity to revoke his decision to rescue Linda Norgrove, the PMS stated that at any time a different judgement could have been taken, but the advice remained the same.
Asked at what time General Petraeus telephoned the Prime Minister, the PMS confirmed that Downing Street had received a call in the early hours.
Asked if UK forces had led a rescue operation for US nationals, the PMS replied he was unaware of such circumstances, but confirmed British forces have been involved in the rescue of other foreign nationals.
Asked who led such rescue missions, the PMS referred journalists to the words of the Prime Minister today. Forces with knowledge of the terrain and understanding of the situation in the area led such missions.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s meeting with General Petraeus, the PMS said it had been in the diary for a number of weeks.
Asked if there were plans for telephone calls with President Obama and if an inquiry would be led by the US or jointly, the PMS stated that the terms of the inquiry would be worked through with the US and that it would be a joint US/UK inquiry. General Petraeus had invited the UK to take part and we had accepted his invitation. The PMS said no telephone calls were currently scheduled with Obama.
In response to the suggestion that the Prime Minister would respond to the CSR, the PMS replied that the CSR was a Chancellor announcement and as such there would be a statement to the House from the Chancellor and a response from the Shadow Chancellor.
Asked if the Prime Minister had received the Lord Browne report, the PMS confirmed that the report was delivered over the weekend.
Asked about the response to Lord Browne’s report, the PMS explained that a response would be given once the report was officially published.
Put that hosting a cross-party meeting on a report was a new precedent, the PMS replied that this was an issue of concern to all parties and the review had been commissioned by the last government.
Green Efficiency Review
Put that many efficiency reviews such as Philip Green’s had been produced for government and not been implemented and asked why this review was different, the PMS replied that government would implement the recommendations and that there would be more central direction for departments.
Asked if government would follow Green’s advice on telecoms contracts, the PMS stated that by using buying power more effectively government should secure better deals and that there was a lot more that government could be doing and consequently would be following through.
Put that Green’s suggestion to introduce new procedures when signing off purchases would lead to greater bureaucracy, the PMS explained that currently lots of different departments tender to procure the same things and that duplication ought to be reduced and could be reduced through implementing the recommendations.
Asked to comment on HMRC’s discussions with Phillip Green about tax, the PMS pointed out that it was not appropriate to comment on an individual’s tax affairs.
Asked if the report could be described as thorough given its length, the PMS said the report was very thorough and a huge amount of work had been done. The PMS confirmed government would follow up the recommendations of the report and that Francis Maude would say more about the details of that process in due course.
Asked about the threshold hold for child benefit coming down, the PMS stated that the Prime Minister had addressed the question in his press conference. The PMS explained that commitments about tax thresholds and policy would be set out by the Chancellor.
In response to the suggestion that the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions had not been consulted on plans for child benefit, the PMS replied that discussions with relevant ministers had started before the Budget. Usually such discussions take place between the department and the Treasury, but on this occasion it had also involved other ministers such as the Deputy Prime Minister.
Asked if there would be re-profiling of the Budget, the PMS said that this set the direction of policy on spending. The spending envelope had been set at the time of the Budget.