Asked whether the Government still held a golden share in BAE, and what the Government stance was on a potential merger with EADS, the PMS said that it was a market sensitive issue and was not going to discuss the merger, but the Government still held a golden share in BAE.
Asked whether the PM and Cabinet Secretary were completely happy with the direction of Universal Credit welfare reforms, the PMS said that Universal Credit was on track and on budget. It would simplify the welfare system and ensure that work paid. This was a complicated project and would be managed according.
Asked whether the PM was 100% committed to the reforms, the PMS said that Universal Credit was a key part of our reform of the welfare system and we were fully committed to it.
Women on Boards
Asked whether the PM was happy about proposed EU quotas for women on company boards, the PMS said that we do not see any merit in imposing quotas, and we do not see it as an issue for the EU. This should be an issue for individual countries to consider. Looking at recent figures for the UK, women now accounted for 17.3% of people on FTSE 100 boards, which was up from 12.5% at the time of the Davies Review in 2011. Women also accounted for 44% of newly appointed FTSE100 directorships.
Asked whether the PM would share Sir John Major’s view on the economy, that the darkest hours were behind us, the PMS said that there were still significant challenges for the UK economy. We were dealing with a significant overhang of debt and the Eurozone situation remained very difficult. We were tackling those problems in the appropriate way, by reducing the deficit and improving the competitiveness of the UK economy.
Asked what steps had been taken to find out how the perimeter of Camp Bastion was breached, the PMS said that there would be an investigation of the incident. It was important to point out that incidents such as this involved isolated, rogue elements of the Afghan national security forces and that tens of thousands of ISAF soldiers worked alongside Afghan soldiers without incident every day. Bastion was very well protected, but the incident would be assessed carefully.
Asked whether there was going to be a step up in the vetting level of Afghan forces, the PMS said there has already been changes to the way we vetted recruits.
Asked whether the PM was concerned about the level of money going to aid consultants, the PMS said that the Government had completely overhauled its aid programme. Over the last two years there had been a thorough review of all programmes to ensure that money was going where it was most needed. We had made aid spending more transparent than ever before and a watchdog had been set up to ensure the money we spend gets results.
Asked whether the International Development Secretary was asked to look at spending on aid consultants when she was appointed, the PMS said that one of her many responsibilities was to ensure we were spending aid money effectively.