From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Cabinet, Dilnot Review, Housing Benefits, Frank Field, Afghanistan, Campbell Diaries and Immigration.
Asked whether Cabinet could be chaired by someone other than the Prime Minister, the PMDS (Prime Minister’s Deputy Spokesperson) said it was his choice to have Cabinet on Thursday and that he would want to update Cabinet ministers on his recent trip and forthcoming business.
Asked whether the PM had read the report and, if so, what his views were, the PMDS said the Health Secretary would shortly be making a statement in the House. She added that the Coalition Agreement had set out its intention to set up a Commission on social care and support which would report in its first year. She added this report addressed part of the picture of what needed to be done to tackle social care issues and the PM welcomed the report. She added people would be aware this was a complex as well as multifaceted issue and funding could not be looked at in isolation.
Asked if the term ‘Dilnot is DOA’ was exaggerated, the PMDS said she did not recognise that characterisation. She added that the report was a very important marker in our attempt to deal with the issue. As we had seen on the issue of public sector pensions, the number of people who were aging was quite significant. By 2026, the number of 85 year olds was projected to double and that statistic alone set the picture for the problem we needed to tackle.
Asked how many 85s year olds there were currently, the PMDS said she wasn’t aware of the exact figure and referred people to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Asked if we were surprised to find people briefing out phrases such as ‘DOA’ and whether it was still the Government’s intention to legislate in the next session on this issue, the PMDS said on the second point it was important to wait until the Health Secretary had made his statement in the House. On the first point, she did not recognise the statement.
Asked if the PM had responded formally to the Leader of the Opposition’s offer for cross party talks on this issue, the PMDS said the PM had already said that he was happy to look at this on a cross party basis.
Asked whether funding was the main problem from Downing Street’s perspective, the PMDS said we had always said there was a price tag but we would not back away from the issue.
Asked to respond to Liam Byrne’s allegations that ministers had misled the House on the impact of changes to housing benefits, the PMDS said we disagreed with the statement and changes to the welfare system were about fairness and making work pay. She added that the changes that were being brought in were difficult choices but there was no reason why anyone would be made homeless when they were receiving up to £26,000 in benefits.
Asked whether ministers were aware of the figure being quoted in the leaked letter, the PMDS said we would not comment on leaked documents but changes we had announced addressed the basic issue of fairness. She added it was unacceptable to have hard working individuals and families struggling to pay their mortgages when some families, who were not working, received considerable housing benefits. She added that while the changes we were making ensured that no one would be made homeless, we had also put transitional arrangements in place with local authorities receiving an extra £192m in funding as part of the spending review period to smooth through the changes.
Asked whether the PM had done anything to find out why the figure referred to in the leaked document wasn’t given to the House, the PMDS said she would not get into the details of leaked documents and suggested people speak to DWP on the impacts of government policy.
Asked if Government was confident the Speaker would agree with them on this, the PMDS said this was a matter for the Speaker.
Asked for a comment on Frank Field’s assertion that the flat £250 a year salary increase for the lowest paid workers was only going to those on the government pay roll rather than all public sector workers as the Chancellor had first promised, the PMDS said she was aware of the situation but referred people to the Treasury on the details.
Asked if the PM was aware of reports of a missing British soldier in southern Afghanistan, the PMDS said the PM was aware but referred people to Ministry of Defence statement.
Asked to respond to extracts from Alistair Campbell’s diary that claim that the French and German governments tried to exploit the divisions between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the PMDS said she would not comment on historical issues.
Asked if we were looking into Article 8 of the Human Rights Act to tackle immigration issues, the PMDS said this was true and, as the Home Office had set out, Article 8 did not give an absolute right to remain here. She added we would continue to remove those who broke the rules and tried to play the system. We were also going to consult on the family route shortly and look at what requirements we should place on foreign nationals who wished to establish a family life in the UK.