From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Social Policy Review, Crossrail, Libya, Scotland and housing.
Social Policy Review
Asked for details on the social policy review meeting, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that that in the wake of the riots the Prime Minister (PM) announced his intention to review the Government’s work and consider whether plans and programmes were big and bold enough to deliver the change that the country wanted to see. The PMS said that the meeting today was the first in that process, chaired by the PM and pulling together Ministers from the relevant departments.
Asked if the PM planned to do anything else this week on law and order, the PMS said that there weren’t any plans.
Asked for more details on the review, the PMS said it was to see whether developing and existing policy work addressed the demands made by the public in the wake of the public disorder. Asked what these demands were, the PMS said it would look at all issues around the Broken Society including schools, family policy, parenting, human rights, health and safety, legal and bureaucratic policy, as well as the signals Government sent around behaviour that is encouraged and rewarded.
Asked about the issues around health and safety, the PMS said that the obsession with health and safety eroded people’s willingness to act according to common sense. Health and safety is important legislation but is often used as an excuse in the place of common sense. Asked how health and safety was linked to riots, the PMS said that in the wake of the riots the PM wanted to look at the whole remit of Government policies, from benefits, through to schools, not just health and safety.
Asked when there would be results from the review, the PMS said that the internal review would last until October. The PMS also said that there was a separate independent panel that would be looking at the impact on victims and communities, being conducted by the DPM. Its membership will be announced in the coming days.
Asked if the PM agreed with research saying that the behaviour of the political classes may have been a factor in the causes of the riots, the PMS said that we won’t know exactly what the causes were, but that the PM had made a strong response in the wake of the public disorder and that the social policy review would look at the broader impact and the issues raised.
Asked if there were further plans for riot related legislation, the PMS said the House of Commons (HoC) would be updated on events when it returns, but that it was an ongoing review.
Asked if the internal review was distinct from the Home Secretary’s work, the PMS said that it was and that the Home Secretary and Welfare Secretary were specifically reviewing gang culture.
Asked if the measures announced by the PM following the riots had taken effect, the PMS said that there were some immediate changes at an operational level to the police to help them get to grips with the situation, but that the social policy review was much broader.
Asked if the Government should look again at the Thameslink contract, the PMS said that the Government was legally bound by the decision made on Thameslink. The PMS also pointed out that there was an ongoing review of procurement rules as part of the growth review.
Asked if the Crossrail review meant it was more likely that a British based company would win the contract, the PMS said that the purpose of the process was to ensure that, while we were abiding with EU procurement rules, we were not putting British companies at a disadvantage.
Asked for the PM’s expectations for Thursday, the PMS said that this was being co-organised with the French, that there were due to be a large number of delegations there and that the agenda and logistics were still being worked through. Asked if there were any specific aspirations for the meeting, the PMS said that it would discuss what more the international community could do to help the Libyan’s reach their goal of a secure, peaceful, Libyan-led country.
Asked if the Government would like to extradite Megrahi back to the UK, the PMS said that the decision to release Megrahi was a matter for the Scottish executive, and that the PM’s view, that Megrahi should not have been released, had not changed. Asked if we would oppose any attempt by the US to extradite him, the PMS said it was a matter for the Scottish authorities. Asked if the PM agreed with Andrew Mitchell’s comment that it was ‘academic’ whether Megrahi was extradited or not, the PMS said that the Government’s position on Megrahi had not changed.
Asked for the Government’s understanding of the National Transitional Council’s (NTC) view on extraditing Libyan nationals, the PMS said the Government was working very closely with the NTC on their immediate priorities. As the Foreign Secretary said, there are some outstanding issues with Libya, and discussions would take place when appropriate. The PMS said the PC Fletcher case was an ongoing police investigation and that the Government was working closely with the NTC to make sure that, at the appropriate time, we could continue those investigations in Libya.
Asked if the Government was content that the NTC would cooperate with the Fletcher case if police went out, the PMS said that we hoped they would. She said that the NTC had their priorities of establishing security, but that we were in discussions with the NTC on a number of issues, including this one.
Asked if there was police representation at the NSC, the PMS said that she wouldn’t comment on individuals.
Asked why the British Embassy in Tripoli hadn’t reopened, the PMS said that a further British diplomatic mission had arrived in Tripoli, that they are working with the NTC, and that the Embassy would be reopened in due course. Asked if more British diplomats would be sent out, the PMS said it is likely and that the Foreign Office would have more details.
Asked if the British Government was helping the NTC in the hunt for Qadhafi, the PMS said that was a matter for the Libyans. She said that Britain was enacting the UN resolution, contributing to the NATO mission and supporting the NTC, but not specifically involved in the search.
Asked if the Government was expecting the UN to produce a new resolution, lifting the freeze on Libyan assets, the PMS said the Government was working to encourage international partners to support the resolution, but that we didn’t know when there might be a vote.
Asked if there were any British assets involved in the hunt for Qadhafi, the PMS said that we were supporting the NATO mission and the NTC, but that there were no troops on the ground in Libya, apart from the military advisors supporting the NTC, and that she wouldn’t comment on Special Forces.
Asked if the PM regretted that Qadhafi’s family had managed to get into Algeria, the PMS said that the Qadhafi regime needed to be brought to justice, and that Britain supported the NTC’s mission to do that.
Asked if the PM accepted the spending imbalance in Scotland, the PMS said that that the Government’s priority was to deal with the deficit, but that there was a commitment in the coalition agreement to look at the Barnett Formula once public finances were stabilised. The PMS gave some data examples of regional figures for spending per head specifically that the spending per capita in Scotland is £10,212, in Northern Ireland it is £10,706 and in London it is £10,256. She pointed out that the figures varied across the country. Asked why the disparities were widening, the PMS said that this does vary between regions and that the coalition would look at the Barnett formula, but not until they have sorted out the public finances.
Asked if the PM feared that this would play into an anti-Scottish sentiment, the PMS said that this is why we needed to set out the facts in terms of what the funding was. Asked if any change to the Barnett Formula would have an effect on the Scottish referendum on independence, the PMS said that the PM would campaign to keep out United Kingdom together with every fibre of his being.
Asked if the PM was worried that we weren’t building enough houses, the PMS said that this was a legacy issue and that the Government was addressing the shortfall in affordable housing. She said that there were fewer houses built by the last administration in recent years, but that the current Government has set an aspiration to deliver 150,000 new homes by 2015 and put in place £45 billion investment in affordable housing.