Put that the French Ambassador visited Downing Street today and asked whether that was to do with the Anglo-French Summit coming up, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there were French diplomats at Downing Street today and the summit was discussed.
Asked when and where the summit would be, the PMS said that it was likely to be in London on 2nd November.
Asked whether the issue of strikes and/or defence would be discussed at the summit, the PMS said that a range of issues of common interest would be discussed.
Asked if plans had been made for the summit to take place in Portsmouth, the PMS said that, as with all visits, we considered a range of venues before finalising, but this summit would not be held in Portsmouth.
Housing Benefit Reforms
Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister’s view that Chris Bryant’s remarks about cleansing London of 200,000 poor people was offensive, the PMS said yes; we were reforming housing benefit because it needed reform and the numbers reported did not bear any relation to reality.
Asked what numbers were more realistic, the PMS said that our estimates were that 21,000 would be affected nationally, of which 17,000 were in London.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was of Chris Bryant’s suggestion that there would be rioting in wealthier suburbs, the PMS said that the housing benefit system was unaffordable and required reform. We were committed to supporting the most vulnerable families, but it was reasonable to put a limit on the total amount that people claimed in housing benefit, adding £400 was equivalent to around £21,000 a year.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was happy that Lord Mandelson had expressed support for his welfare reforms, schools policy and the Big Society, the PMS said that we were clear that our agenda was the right one, and it was good to see people agreeing with us.
Put that Lord Mandelson was asked before the General Election whether he would consider joining a Conservative administration, the PMS said that that was a question for Lord Mandelson, but there were no jobs going at the present time.