The PMS informed journalists that the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary would launch the listening exercise as referred to in the Health Secretary’s statement on Monday at an event tomorrow.
Asked what the aim of the listening exercise was and why the Prime Minister and the Government felt it was necessary, the PMS reiterated the Health Secretary’s comments to the House on Monday that the Government’s commitment to the principles of the bill was undiminished. It was time to take a natural break in the passage of the bill to pause, listen and engage for all those who wanted the NHS to succeed. The PMS also referred to comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister earlier in the day that the Government clearly needs to listen to those concerns.
Asked if the listening exercise would be the first in a series of similar events, the PMS said more would be said at the event itself.
Asked why the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were involved in the listening exercise and not just the health secretary, the PMS said it was because it was an important part of the Government agenda.
Asked if the aid for Pakistan announced by the Prime Minister was over and above what has already been given, the PMS said it was certainly from the overall Department for International Development (DfID) budget, but referred journalists to DfID to check whether it is specific to the Pakistan programme. It is a new announcement of where the money would go.
When asked what time period it covered, the PMS said it would be up to £650million over the next four years.
When asked about the education committee trying to put a 3% limit on how much interest students can be charged on tuition fees, the PMS said that not all universities had come forward with the fees they were going to charge. The Government’s position was very clear that charging anything above the £6,000 figure quoted should be the exception and not the norm. There is a process in place for universities who want to charge a higher fee and that process involves setting out access plans for people from disadvantaged backgrounds which needs to go via the Office of Fair Access.
Asked how would the Government would feel about a 3% interest limit being set, the PMS referred journalists to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but said that clearly there would still be an option for the Government to legislate further should it get to the position where students are having to borrow much higher loans to pay for tuition fees.
Put that with inflation this could rise to 5% which was a lot of money, the PMS replied again that the Government’s position on tuition fees was clear, we want people to go to university but can’t expect the public purse to be able to pay for everyone to go to university.
When put that this was an end to further education in this country, the PMS said she disputed that fact.
Asked whether the Prime Minister employed any interns, the PMS explained that there is a secondment programme within government for officials, but no internship programme like the one announced today.
Asked whether the Prime Minister had ever been an intern, the PMS referred journalists to political advisors.