From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Pakistan, Scottish By-Election, Immigration, Armed Forces and Strikes.
When asked if the Prime Minister would raise the subject of British military trainers being expelled from Pakistan, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that this was an opportunity to build on the Prime Minister’s visit to Pakistan in April and to enhance our cooperation on a number of issues. The PMS said that during the visit, the Prime Minister launched the UK-Pakistan Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, which covered business and trade, economy and development, education and health, security and defence, and culture.
This meeting would be an opportunity to discuss how work in those areas was progressing, as well as discussing how the two countries could work together to tackle terrorism. The PMS added that Bin Laden’s death was an opportunity to make further progress against violent extremist groups in Pakistan which threatened the security in both our countries. The PMS said that the way was now clear for the Taliban to make a decisive break from al Qaida and join the political process.
Asked again on military trainers, the PMS said that the teams were ready to redeploy at the first opportunity. On why Pakistan had made the request, the PMS said she would not get into security matters.
Asked for a response from the Prime Minister on the by-election, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not given a response. Asked if the Prime Minister now accepted that the question of independence would now be a big constitutional matter for this Parliament as well as the Scottish Parliament, the PMS advised journalists to speak to her political colleagues.
Asked about Iain Duncan-Smith’s comments and whether the Government was looking at any other measures to restrict the in-flow of migrants into Britain, the PMS said that the Welfare Secretary had been invited to speak in Spain. As far as immigration was concerned, the Welfare Secretary would set out Government policy in his speech and the point he was trying to make was that we had to make work pay.
The PMS added that the Welfare Secretary would be setting out the Government’s reforms on welfare and how that would enable people who had been on benefits for a significant amount of time to go from the back of the queue when it came to jobs to the front of the queue.
Asked if the Prime Minister believed in British jobs for British workers, the PMS said that this was about making work pay. Statistics showed that a large number of jobs did go to migrant workers; immigration had brought great benefits to this country and our economy and that was a good thing, but at the same time we wanted to be able to allow those people trapped on benefits to have a chance of getting into work.
The PMS added that for too long the benefit system had trapped people by not giving them opportunities. This Government took the approach of reforming the welfare system in order that people did not get trapped on benefits. We were also working with businesses in order to try and create opportunities for young people to get into work by providing apprenticeships for example. The Government was also taking a stand on immigration so it was not uncontrolled.
Put that the British Chamber of Commerce had said this morning that a lot of British people lacked the work ethic and education to compete in the jobs market and did the Prime Minister accept that, the PMS said that too many people had been trapped on benefits; there was a role for businesses to create the opportunities for young people and a role for Government to try and create the conditions, such as encouraging apprenticeships. The PMS said that what we were trying to do was to make sure that people had the opportunities to get into work.
Asked if people that had been on benefits for a long time should be considered ahead of migrants with the same qualifications, the PMS said that she would not be getting into decisions being made by individual businesses. We were trying to reform the system as people who were on benefits were normally last in the queue when it came to being considered for jobs.
Asked if Iain Duncan-Smith had gone slightly too far, the PMS said that the Welfare Secretary would set out the fact that the welfare system had for too long encouraged people not to go out to work and what we were trying to do was to make work pay.
Asked if this was specifically a welfare issue or a matter of immigration, the PMS said that our measures on immigration were well known, for example putting restrictions on non-EU workers entering the country.
We wanted to ensure that we continued to attract the brightest and best; there was a skills gap in some areas and immigration had a very positive role to play in that. Where there were opportunities for British people to fill jobs, we wanted British people to go for them.
On why the Welfare Secretary chose Spain to make the speech, the PMS said that the Welfare Secretary had been invited to go there. Asked if it was still an aspiration of the Government to reduce immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands, the PMS said that it was.
Asked if No10 had been involved with drafting the speech, the PMS said that the Welfare Secretary was setting out what was the Government’s position.
Asked if the Prime Minister was minded to give reservists a bigger role in the armed forces, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had commissioned a review into their role and we were still waiting on the outcome of that review. The Prime Minister thought that reservists had played a very significant role in defence of this country and would continue to do so.
Asked if the Government expected a broader wave of strikes, the PMS said that talks would continue on the issue of pensions. Asked if the Government had drawn any conclusion from the amount of public support for the strikes, the PMS said that as we had said all along, we thought that they were premature and the figures spoke for themselves.
Asked if the strikes would change the way the Government dealt with the issue, the PMS said that our approach had not changed and the talks continued to be constructive.