Asked for the PM’s (Prime Minister) response to the Vickers’ report, the PMS (Prime Minister’s Spokesman) said that the PM would say something in his press conference, and that Chancellor was making a statement in the House of Commons later in the day. Asked for the Government’s response to the criticism that it won’t be in place for up to 11 years, the PMS said that the Government agreed with the timetable set out by Vickers. She added that the Government asked the commission to look at regulation, they considered it in very great detail, taking all factors into account, and the Chancellor would be responding to their report more fully later today.
Asked for the PM’s response to Brendan Barber’s comments on the riots and cuts, the PMS said that a number of actions had been taken since the riots. She added that Ministers understood about the tough times that people are facing, but that it was still important to tackle the deficit, get public spending under control and the economy back on track. The PMS also pointed out that low interest rates, and measures taken in the Budget on fuel duty rises and tax on oil companies, provided some respite for hard pressed families.
Public sector pensions
Asked where we were in terms of talks between Government and the unions, on pensions, the PMS said that the talks were ongoing and progressing well, but that they should talk to the Cabinet office for more details.
Asked to go into more details on the progress, the PMS said that the important thing was that the Government was sitting around the table with the unions talking about difficult issues. She said that the principles hadn’t changed - that the Government wanted to ensure that public sector pensions continued to be generous, but that they were also affordable - and talks on how to implement that were ongoing. She added that there were also sectoral talks ongoing, to discuss how we approach the different types of public sector pensions.
Asked for more details on the areas of progress, the PMS said that the Government was discussing the difficult issues and that was important progress in itself.
Asked for more details on the timetable for the scheme by scheme deals, the PMS said that they would have to speak to the Cabinet Office on the timetable.
Asked what would happen if they did not meet the deadlines, the PMS said the important thing was that the Government was in dialogue with the unions. She said that calls for industrial action were very disappointing, but that they were continuing to have the rational discussions about the most appropriate methods of reaching a solution that would benefit all.
Asked if there was an imbalance between what the Government and the unions were saying about strikes, the PMS said that is was very disappointing that there had been a call for industrial action, but the discussions are ongoing.
Asked about the Government’s plans to provide a minimum level of public services during any industrial action, the PMS said that the Government has continuity plans in place for all eventualities, as part of prudent planning.
Asked if the Government was concerned about the process whereby planning proposals were produced, the PMS said that the planning policy framework was out for consultation, we had invited views from all sectors and that consultation process is ongoing.
Asked if the PM was content that Ministers were acting as honest brokers in the process, the PMS said that the PM was confident that the consultation exercise was being run in a proper fashion as would be expected in a Government consultation. The PMS was aware of the reports alluded to and would not comment on what third party organisations did or didn’t say.
Asked if elements of the proposals could be entirely rewritten as part of the consultation process, the PMS said that it was a Government consultation that was looking for views, and read out from the opening chapter, ‘we would welcome your views on any aspect of the draft framework’. She said that the Government had set out the reasons for overhauling the planning system - ensuring that they reduced the vast pages of guidance and made it simpler, while at the same time ensuring that local people still had a strong say in the planning process. Asked for more details, the PMS said that we would have to wait and see what came up at the end of the consultation.
Asked if the PM was concerned about the growing movement of back benchers against the Government’s relationship with Brussels, the PMS said that the PM’s views on Europe were well known; he wanted to ensure that the best interests of Britain were protected and he had said that he is a euro sceptic