From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: strike action, Greek vote, EU, police bail ruling, Libya and business rates.
Asked if civil servants had been informed they could bring their children to work tomorrow, the PMS said that the civil service covered many different organisations but it was his understanding that some parts had been told that they could bring their kids to work. Asked if Downing Street staff had been encouraged to bring their children to work, the PMS said he wasn’t aware of any specific messages.
Asked if there had been any attempts made by Cabinet ministers to contact union leaders, the PMS said that he wasn’t aware of any contact so he was unable to confirm either way. He added that talks were ongoing and, though some unions recognised this, it was disappointing that others had decided to strike.
Asked if the Government and PM had done enough to avert strike action, the PMS said it was important to look at where we were in the process. He added it was premature to ballot strike action when we were still having broad talks about the pension reforms rather than detailed negotiations.
Asked why the Education Secretary had suggested that parents help to keep schools open when his own local education authority had advised schools against this, the PMS said we had set out our advice but ultimately this was a decision for head teachers.
Asked for Government’s advice to air travellers, the PMS said people should check with their air carriers. He added that borders would remain open and appropriately trained staff would be in place. However, it was possible delays could occur and, therefore, it was sensible for travellers to check with their carriers.
Asked to describe the expected level of disruption to services, the PMS said there was clearly going to be some disruption tomorrow, particularly for schools, and we were disappointed that certain unions had decided to take strike action when we were still engaged in talks.
Asked who would be making the statement in the House on this issue tomorrow, the PMS said the Education Secretary would make the statement.
Asked what the distinction between talks and negotiations were, the PMS said, at present, we were having broad discussions not detailed negotiations on specific pension issues.
Asked why we hadn’t held detailed negotiations if they could have averted the strike, the PMS said many unions had decided it would be inappropriate to ballot their members for strike action at this stage. Clearly, those unions believed we were engaging with them through constructive dialogue.
Asked if we thought private companies should also allow their staff to bring their children into work, the PMS said this was a matter for the companies but clearly it would be possible for some.
Asked if all talks were being held under the auspices of the TUC, the PMS said that all unions were in the same room.
Asked for the PM’s views on the decision by Greek MPs to vote through austerity measures, the PMS said the PM had set out his views in the past, which were that Greece needs to address its problems and that’s what they were seeking to do through this austerity package. He explained that the next step now was for the Eurozone finance ministers to meet and decide whether or not to disperse the next tranche of support from the package that was agreed last year.
Asked if the PM would encourage Eurozone members to disperse that aid, the PMS said that was a decision for Eurozone ministers.
Asked if there would be British representation at this meeting of Eurozone ministers, the PMS said there would not.
Asked to respond to media reports that Steve Hilton and Oliver Letwin believed that the UK should leave the EU, the PMS said that wasn’t Government policy.
Asked for the Government’s bottom line for the upcoming EU budget, the PMS said this was to protect the rebate because without it, the UK’s net contribution, as a percentage of national income, would be the largest across the EU. He added that the European Commission’s proposals had yet to be been published but we would read them with interest.
Police bail ruling
Asked for the Government’s response to the court ruling restricting the use of bail in England and Wales, the PMS said the Government would look to see whether it could appeal the decision and whether it was necessary to introduce legislation to deal with the issue. He added that this was a long standing convention - 25 year years of police practice. He added we didn’t want anything to inhibit the police in doing their job to protect the public so we would be looking at the implications of this ruling.
Asked how much force anyone is allowed to use against a burglar, the PMS said that was a legal question. He added that people were allowed to use reasonable force to protect themselves in self defence as set out in statute law. There was, however, a separate issue about whether you could use reasonable force to protect property, for which is there is a common law position but nothing set out in statute. He added that we were looking to clarify this situation and we would come forward with detailed proposals shortly.
Asked what No 10 thought of the Justice Secretary’s comments on this issue, the PMS said he believed Ken Clarke was trying to bring the point alive, but ultimately the courts would take into account the context of the situation.
Asked if the PM had been aware that the French had supplied weapons to Libyan civilians and whether the UK stood by its position not to, the PMS said he wasn’t aware of the announcement but the UK position was to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Asked whether the UK considered France’s actions in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the PMS set out the UK position.
Asked if the PM was happy with the decision to allow local authorities to set business rates, the PMS said Government policy was to reform business rates to incentivise councils to do more sensible things with the money.