Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning For 15 June 2011
From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: NATO, departmental business, sex offenders, strikes, Olympics, Southern Cross, Sri Lanka and IMF subscriptions.
Prime Minister’s Day
- Prime Minister to meet with NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen in No10. This will be an opportunity to discuss NATO’s operations in Libya and Afghanistan, and NATO reform. Pooled pics and opening statements, 4.45pm. The Foreign Secretary will also meet the Secretary-General
- Working from Downing Street
Other departmental business
- The Foreign Secretary will also be meeting the NATO Secretary General, 1600
- Chancellor to give the annual Mansion House speech
- Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley has given a speech at the Commissioning 2011 conference in London
- International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell will lay out how the Government will improve the way it responds to man-made and natural disasters to provide more effective help to people devastated by earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and war. Oral statement, 1230
- Pensions Minister, Steve Webb speech to the National Pensioners Convention in Blackpool, 1400
Asked what the Prime Minister would be looking to get out of the meeting with Secretary General Rasmussen, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the meeting would discuss the campaigns in Libya and Afghanistan. There was a decision expected shortly from the US on troop numbers in Afghanistan and the PMS thought that would form part of the discussion.
Put that Robert Gates had been critical of some NATO partners for not committing to spending 2% of GDP on Defence and what was the Prime Minister’s view on that, the PMS said that the Government had set out its own Defence plans and that implied that we would stay above 2%, meaning that we would meet our NATO commitment.
The PMS said that the amount countries spent on national programmes were a matter for those countries - we would not dictate to others what they should be spending on specific programmes.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be asking for more contributions towards the campaign in Libya, the PMS replied that he would update journalists after the meeting, but it was essentially a stock-take on the campaign.
When asked about the British military involvement in Libya, the PMS said that it was worth remembering that this was a NATO-led operation and we were an important part of that effort. We thought that the measures we were taking on the military front, as well as economic and political measures, were proving effective in putting pressure on the Qadhafi regime.
Asked if there had been any requests from the military for more firepower, the PMS replied that operational decisions were taken by the command and control structure in NATO. The campaign involved a broad cross-section of countries.
Put that Vince Cable had said last week that there were compelling reasons to change the strike laws, the PMS said that the position on strike laws had not changed; we would always keep it under review. The PMS added that what Vince Cable had said last week was that the level of public sector strikes in this country remained low, and therefore there was not a compelling case for changing the law at the current time, but it was something we would keep under review.
Put that with big strikes potentially on the horizon, what would constitute a compelling case, the PMS replied that we would keep it under review. We wanted to have a constructive dialogue with the unions. The PMS said that the issue we were currently talking about was pension reform; we thought it was important to reform public sector pensions and we wanted to do that in a way that was fair to public sector workers, but also fair for the taxpayer. We wanted to ensure we continued to attract the good teachers that people wanted to see in schools, but there was no denying the fact that we needed to reform public sector pensions.
Asked if the Government was ‘sitting on its hands’, the PMS replied that we were actively engaging with the unions and we were keeping the issue of strike laws under review.
Put that the Government would not be able to change the strike laws until after the strike had occurred, the PMS said that the number of public sector strikes was low by international standards and we did not see a compelling case at the present time for changing the strike laws but we would continue to look at it.
Asked if the Prime Minister would accept that we had some of the toughest labour laws of any nation, the PMS said that what was important was to have the right laws in place. It was the Government’s judgement at the moment that the right laws were in place but we would keep that under review.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that it was right that sex offenders could apply to have their names removed from the sex offenders register, the PMS replied that on the issue of Europe and the Human Rights Act, there was a commission in place looking into the case for a British Bill of Rights.
On this particular issue, there was a legal judgement and we had to abide by the law, but we had taken the opportunity to strengthen the way we policed the sex offenders register.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy that members of the Qadhafi regime had been invited to the Olympics, the PMS said that that was a decision for the IOC, not the UK Government. The PMS said that Qadhafi, his family and key members of that regime were subject to a travel ban and would not be allowed to travel here in any event.
Asked about the Government’s ability to guarantee or underwrite Southern Cross to protect the people who might be affected by administration, the PMS replied that the position on that had not changed; our priority was to make sure that people in Southern Cross homes were looked after and their welfare was looked after properly and that’s what we would do.
Asked about IMF subscriptions, the PMS advised people to speak to the Treasury on the details.
Asked about Alistair Burt’s statement on Sri Lanka and whether the Prime Minister was aware of the documentary, the PMS said that he did not know but would check.