Put that the Prime Minister needed to concentrate in NHS reform, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister was focussing on modernising public services, which the NHS was part of. The Prime Minister was also involved in work this week on trade and youth employment.
Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that he could salvage something out of the Health Bill, the PMS said that this listening exercise was taking place in a natural break in the Parliamentary process and people were aware of the areas which we were specifically looking at. We expected substantial changes as part of the listening exercise.
Asked what the substantial changes were, the PMS said that the listening exercise was continuing. We had said that we would pause, listen, reflect and make improvements, and we were still in the process.
Asked what areas the Government was particularly looking at, the PMS said that the Health Secretary set out in his original statement to the House some of the areas where he anticipated improvements including choice, competition and the involvement of the private sector; private companies cherry-picking NHS activity; and transparency and accountability regarding GP commissioning groups.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Andrew Lansley would be the Health Secretary in six months time, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had full confidence in Andrew Lansley.
Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister had been right yesterday when he said that one of things that would be changed was that GPs wouldn’t be forced into taking part in GP commissioning groups, the PMS said that she was not going to contradict the Deputy Prime Minister and that the listening exercise continued.
Asked if the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were scheduled to have a meeting on the NHS this week, the PMS said that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister met regularly on a whole range of issues.
Asked if the Prime Minister had a view on the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments over the weekend that substantial changes had been agreed, the PMS said that the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Health Secretary all agreed that there was a need for reform and they expected to come back with substantive changes once the listening exercise concluded next month.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the Master of Rolls needed to look into the issue of privacy law more speedily given the high level of concern over injunctions and super injunctions, the PMS said that her understanding was that the Master of Rolls report would be published soon, and the Prime Minister wanted to await that report.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought there should be a second referendum on Scottish independence to sort out the terms and conditions if the first referendum was successful, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s position remained as set out last week: it was up to the Scottish Parliament if they wanted a referendum. The Prime Minister would campaign against it, but he wouldn’t put any obstacles in the way of Scotland having one.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that everyone in the union should have a say about Scottish independence, the PMS said that it was up to the Scottish Parliament if they wanted a referendum. The Prime Minister’s view on the Union was clear.
Asked if the Prime Minister had any further say if a referendum went through, the PMS said that she was not an expert on constitutional aspects of this issue but it was up to the Scottish Parliament if they wanted to have a referendum.
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Alex Salmond recently, the PMS said that they had spoken on the phone on Friday in which this issue was discussed, amongst others. The Prime Minister had reiterated that he was keen to work with Alex Salmond as part of the respect agenda and set out his position on the referendum, and that there would be some issues upon which they would not agree. The Prime Minister was clear that anything that happened needed to be in the best interests of the United Kingdom.