from the Prime Minister’s spokesperson on: unions meeting, cold weather and bank bonuses
Asked for a flavour of the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that it covered the general economic situation, public services and pensions. The PMS said that it was a good, business-like meeting that lasted for around an hour.
On who attended for the Government apart from the Prime Minister, the PMS said that Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude both attended. Asked if there was common ground on any of the issues, the PMS replied that there were issues where it clearly made sense to have a dialogue with the unions, for example, what we were doing on skills and what we were doing regionally to promote growth.
Asked if there was any message from the Prime Minister on strikes, the PMS said that this was a meeting that the unions had asked for and the discussion centred on the economy and public services and the importance of the continuation of that dialogue.
On whether industrial action was raised at all, the PMS replied that that was not the focus of the discussion.
When asked if the Prime Minister was encouraged to have further meetings with the unions, the PMS said that the Government had lots of meetings with the unions on a regular basis. This approach would continue.
Asked why there had not been a COBRA meeting to discuss the bad weather, the PMS said that there had been meetings to discuss the issues. Put that some MPs had suggested that if meetings were to come under the COBRA banner, Ministers would need to include regional offices, which were in the process of being abolished, the PMS replied that the meetings that were taking place were essentially the same as COBRA meetings. The PMS said that COBRA meetings were meetings of Ministers and senior officials from different departments, to discuss issues, and those meetings had been taking place.
Asked if the Prime Minister had taken part in any of the meetings, the PMS said he had not been in meetings today. The PMS added that the Prime Minister had spoken to the Transport Secretary on Saturday and Sunday and he had spoken to the First Ministers from the devolved administrations at the weekend too.
On what the Prime Minister would say to those who were saying that the response was ‘shambolic’ and the Government should be doing more, the PMS replied that we were better placed than we were this time last year.
The weather conditions had been exceptionally severe and people were seeing that impacting not just in this country but right across Europe.
Put that the Prime Minister was not taking the lead on this and was leaving the hard work to the Transport Secretary, the PMS said that people would expect the Transport Secretary to be devoting much of his time to ensuring that the transport networks in this country remained open.
The PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken to Philip Hammond twice over the weekend and had been kept closely in touch with what was going on.
Asked why the criticism of bankers bonuses was continuing and what other measures could be used to further crack down on bonus pay if the current measures weren’t seen as enough, the PMS said that what the Prime Minister had been saying on Friday was reflecting the fact that many people in this country do find the amount bankers pay themselves ‘galling’.
The PMS said that in general, there were a number of issues that we were addressing; we wanted to see a competitive banking sector, a banking sector that was better regulated and more resilient to shocks in the future than it had been in the past. We also wanted to make sure that companies in this country had access to the finance that they needed.
So there were a number of issues which we were addressing and that work was being taken forward by the Treasury and the Department for Business.
Asked what other measures could be used on bankers bonuses in particular, the PMS said he would not speculate on future policy. What had happened already was that the FSA implemented its new code on Friday and those rules were designed to ensure that bankers pay did not encourage risk-taking.