From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Public Sector Pensions, Phone Hacking, Special Advisors and David Laws.
Public Sector Pensions
Asked for more information about the Chief Secretary of the Treasury’s announcement, the PMDS (Prime Minister’s Deputy Spokesperson) referred to his statement.
Asked whether a top level agreement had been reached between the TUC and Government to move to scheme level discussions, the PMDS said central discussions were continuing and suggested people spoke to the Treasury about this.
Asked if this was a good sign of progress, the PMDS said it was a good outcome that we were now moving to scheme level discussions which would ensure the increments were fair.
Asked whether we had published an updated list of meetings, the PMDS said we had and that it had gone up on the website yesterday.
Asked if this was the final list, the PMDS said it was as final as final could be. She added that the key point here was that the information had to be found from varied sources and it was as accurate as we could make it.
Asked whether further changes might be made, the PMDS said she thought it was unlikely.
Asked to comment on accusations by John Mann MP that the PM had broken the Ministerial Code by having Christmas dinner with James Murdoch and his wife two days after taking the BSkyB deal from Vince Cable hands, the PMDS said, quite simply, the PM had not broken the Code. She added that he had been clear he had not been part of the process regarding BSkyB and that Jeremy Hunt had taken this on in a quasi-judicial role.
Asked to consider the fact that the Code states that Ministers must avoid any appearance of conflict, the PMDS said the PM had not been involved in any of the discussions about BSkyB.
Asked how we could say the PM had done nothing wrong when the complaint hadn’t yet been investigated by Sir Gus O’Donnell, the PMDS said the PM had been clear that he had played no role in the bid.
Asked that considering the Code called for the PM to decide whether someone had breached the Code, whether he would excuse himself from that discussion, the PMDS said the PM had not breached the Code but we would look at the letter.
Asked whether we could categorically assure people that the PM had never discussed BSkyB in any of his meetings with News Corporation executives, the PMDS said the PM’s statement had been clear on the matter.
Asked how the PM could claim to be transparent when it had taken so long to publish the list of meetings and he still hadn’t provided specific dates, the PMDS said the PM has been very transparent by publishing all the meetings, official or social. This sets a precedent as no previous government has done this.
Asked what the process was for tomorrow, the PMDS said the PM was expected to make a statement in the House at 11.30 which would be followed by a debate.
Asked whether the PM would be present throughout the debate, the PMDS said the PM would attend the debate but details were still to be decided.
Asked for a reaction to Lord Kinnock’s call for the press to be required by law to be balanced like broadcasters, the PMDS said the inquiry would be looking at the relationship between the media, politicians and the police. It will also look at regulation of the media but the PM’s view was that it was very important to have a free press.
Asked whether the PM agreed with his backbencher who characterised this as a ‘little local difficulty’, the PMDS said he would not characterise it like that. She added that he had expressed his views on this whole episode quite clearly and the whole question of relations between media, politicians and police was of great public concern and would be addressed by the inquiry.
Asked whether the WMS on special advisors was a routine list, the PMDS said it was a list of special advisors in post as of today.
Asked whether the PM welcomed the return of David Laws MP to a more prominent role in parliamentary life, the PMDS said he hadn’t made any particular comments on this but she would check.