The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on gay marriage, secret courts, prisoner voting, women bishops, Leveson Inquiry and Nadine Dorries.
Asked about to comment on media reports, the PMS declined to comment on them but said we had been clear that we would publish the Government’s response to the consultation before Christmas and we would set out then how we are going to proceed. The PMS recognised that this is an emotive issue and there would be debate in both houses of parliament. Asked if the Church’s ability to comment on issues such as this had been compromised the PMS said that the Prime Minister had expressed his view on women bishops.
Asked about amendments made by peers to the secret courts bill last night the PMS said the House of Lords had accepted that closed procedures were necessary for national security evidence to be heard. The Minister without Portfolio, Ken Clarke, would look carefully at the amendments and would make any modifications needed. If the Bill is not right the view of the Government was that the taxpayer would pay out millions of pounds to people who have not proved their case and may have terrorist connections. Ken Clarke released a statement through the Cabinet Office last night in which he said ‘We are going to look carefully at the amendments, they don’t immediately seem to be disastrous but may need to be modified. If we do not get this right the taxpayer will pay out millions of pounds to people who have not proved their case and may have terrorist connections’.
Asked about draft legislation on prisoner voting the PMS said she would not second guess what the Justice Secretary would be saying and journalists should wait for his statement at noon where he would set out our position having considered the Court’s ruling.
Asked about Frank Field’s Bill to change the Church’s exemption from sexual discrimination law the PMS referred journalists to the PM’s view on the issue of women bishops and said there were no plans to change the exemption, but this was a matter for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Asked about comments made that the Church of England had become a ‘sect’ the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made his position clear on the issue of women bishops yesterday.
Answering questions about the publication of the Leveson report next week the PMS said the Leader of the House was expected to set out what the Government will do to respond to Leveson now. In summary, the Prime Minister would make a statement to the House and the Government would make time for a debate on Monday 3 December. The PMS confirmed that the Prime Minister met members of Hacked Off yesterday. Asked who would see the report in advance of publication the PMS said this was a matter for Lord Justice Leveson. There would be a requirement for Core Participants of the Leveson Inquiry to see the report prior to publication but the arrangements would be made by Lord Leveson. A small number of people in Government, who have been agreed by Lord Leveson, would receive limited prior access to ensure that the Government could provide a fuller response than simply just acknowledging it as had been done with previous major enquiries.
Asked about Nadine Dorries leaving ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’ and her return to Westminster, the PMS referred questions to the Conservative Party.