Asked if the plans for a benefit cap had been watered down, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the policy remained unchanged.
Asked what Lord Freud had been talking about yesterday when he spoke about ‘exceptional circumstances’, the PMS replied that Iain Duncan Smith had put out a statement this morning saying that the policy was unchanged and the £26,000 cap remained in place.
The PMS said that with regard to Lord Freud’s comments, it was true that in the proposals we had published, there were some exemptions. For instance the cap did not apply to households that included someone who was in receipt of working tax credits and it did not apply to households that included a child receiving a disability living allowance. The PMS added that these exemptions were already in the proposals.
Asked if there would be any further exemptions, the PMS said that there was no change to the policy. Asked if any further exemptions would be considered, the PMS said that Parliament was currently looking at the proposals. The policy as set out was currently being considered by the House of Commons.
On whether the Prime Minister had concerns that the current policy could be unfair to families with a large number of children, the PMS replied that people should remember why we brought the policy in, in the first place; it was an issue of whether taxpayers in this country thought it was fair that certain families were receiving more than the average wage in benefits. The Prime Minister took the view that we shouldn’t be giving more than the average wage in benefits to a family.
Asked if introducing more exemptions would constitute changing the policy, the PMS said that we would not be changing the policy. Put that the Prime Minister was ruling out further exemptions, the PMS said that this legislation was subject to debate in the House of Commons, but we had been very clear on what the policy was; there would be a £26,000 cap, but there would be certain groups of people exempt from that cap.
Asked about Lord Freud mentioning further proposals later this year, the PMS said that the policy was not changing. On whether there would be an exemption for families living in London for instance, the PMS said that that was not in the proposals.
When asked which side of the Coalition had ‘won’ on NHS reform, the PMS said that he wouldn’t characterise it in those terms. We were still waiting for the NHS Future Forum report which would be published later today and we would have more to say about our response to that tomorrow.
Asked if it would be a substantive response, the PMS advised people to speak to the Department of Health about the details, but we intended to give a proper response.
Asked about reports that the Health Secretary would resign if the Bill was sent back to Committee, the PMS advised people not to believe all the reports they heard.
Put that Kate McCann had been speaking today on what more could be done to find missing children and was the Prime Minister sympathetic to that, the PMS said that it was a priority for the Government and we were working hard to make sure we had the best arrangements in place to support families when a loved one went missing.
The PMS said that from July this year, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency would be taking over responsibility for missing children, with the aim of further improving the service that families received.
Asked whether the Scottish government would be given extra borrowing powers and had the UK Government ‘caved in’ on the issue, the PMS said that we had always said that we would listen carefully to any detailed proposals and that’s what we were doing.
Asked about employee representatives on remuneration boards, the PMS said that he would not be commenting on soon to be announced opposition policy.
Asked about council housing policy and the fact that tenants could get moved up the ladder if they were in work and was the Government minded to use those powers more often, the PMS said that as he understood it, housing was allocated according to need but advised people to check with DWP on the specifics.