Asked what the Prime Minister thought of Vince Cable’s comments regarding abstaining from the tuition fees vote, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the fact that Liberal Democrat MPs would be able to abstain on this issue was announced by way of the Coalition Document many months ago, so it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.
Put that it was odd that the Minister who was leading this policy should be so ambivalent, the PMS said that Vince Cable had said that he might abstain, which people knew could be the case as it was written in the Coalition Document.
Asked if the Prime Minister was frustrated, the PMS said that our priority was to implement the reforms we had set out.
Put that it was impossible for there to be collective responsibility and for people to abstain from a vote, the PMS said that both did apply; there was collective responsibility as there was with any government, but as this was a coalition government there were certain provisions, as set out in the Coalition Document.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be relaxed about Cabinet colleagues abstaining from a flagship policy, the PMS said that the priority was to implement the policy.
Asked how the Prime Minister would prefer Nick Clegg and Vince Cable to vote, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would like to see people abide by the Coalition Document.
Put that it had been six months since the Coalition formed and that the Liberal Democrats should have made clear what they were going to do by now, the PMS said that it was clear that the Liberal Democrats had a particular position on this ahead of the General Election and that was why the Coalition Document was drawn up in the way it was. Those provisions applied and there was nothing further to add.
Asked if the Prime Minister regarded it a case of bad faith if Cabinet Ministers decided to vote against the proposals, the PMS said that he would not get into speculation about a vote that hadn’t happened yet.
Health White Paper
Asked if the alcohol tax changes were part of the Health White Paper, the PMS said that they were part of the strategy to deal with problem drinking.
Asked if the changes applied to cider as well, the PMS said that changes were made in the March Budget regarding the definition of cider, which had an effective raising duty on a certain type of cider.
Put that it was odd for tax changes to occur 24 hours after Cabinet had met, the PMS said that we had made clear at the time of the Budget that we would be looking at how we could use tax to deal with the issue of problem of drinking.
Asked why it hadn’t been announced yesterday during the autumn statement, the PMS said that it was announced today as part of the wider strategy on dealing with problem drinking.