Put that last week the Government showed it was keen to build military cooperation with the French and asked how the Northern Group fits into that, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that we are building our military cooperation with the French but we also need to work alongside a range of allies.
Put that Parliamentary Private Secretary, Jenny Willott, said last night that housing benefit cuts would have serious implications for child poverty and asked whether it was acceptable for her to hold these views. The PMS said MPs are fully entitled to express their views and added that on housing benefit the Government has made some tough decisions and announced its proposals and is expecting to proceed with them.
Asked whether members of the Government are expected to toe the line or whether they are free to express their views in opposition to Government policy, the PMS said that in debates people express different views but one expects Government policy to be supported by members of the Government.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was worried that many former Admirals are saying that we are practically inviting Argentina to invade the Falklands, the PMS said that the Prime Minister does not share this view. The PMS referred to comments made by Nick Harvey earlier in the day on protecting the Falklands. The PMS also referred to comments recently made by the former Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, on the Harriers decision.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought that the former Chiefs were wrong or were scaremongering, the PMS said that the Prime Minister respected their opinion and added that we had a thorough SDSR process, and we have made decisions based on the challenges facing us now and over the next ten years.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought that this was politically motivated, given that one of the individuals was a former Labour Minister, the PMS said that they were entitled to their opinion.
Regional Building Plans
Asked what the Prime Minister’s reaction was to the court judgment against Eric Pickles’s decision to scrap the regional building plans, the PMS referred to the comments already made by Bob Neill on how this judgment changed very little and how later this month we would be introducing the Localism Bill which would sweep away the controversial Regional Strategies.
Put that scrapping top-down targets would have come in immediately under the existing law but now we would have a delay as we wait for a new law to be introduced, the PMS replied that the Localism Bill would be introduced shortly and we had to focus on building houses in different ways.
Asked how top-down targets stop people from building houses, the PMS said the Government is generally against top-down targets and is for encouraging local people to make local decisions and this applies to housing as well as other local priorities.