Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Foreign Secretary's trip to China, universities and memoirs/diaries.
Foreign Secretary’s Trip to China
Asked if the Foreign Secretary would raise the issue of China trading with Iran during his trip, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the focus of this trip was on building the relationship between the UK and China - a country with a large and fast-growing economy. The issue of promoting trade was something that the Prime Minister had been keen to emphasise at the G8 and G20 recently, and he had been emphasising to all his Ministers that there should be a collective effort in building trade links with other countries. This was not just a Foreign Office issue, this was an issue for all departments and they should all be promoting British business interests when meeting with representatives from other countries.
Asked if the Business Secretary was considering a graduate tax, the PMS said that there was a review underway, conducted by Lord Browne, which was looking at the issue of how to fund higher education and the balance between taxpayers, students, graduates and employers. The review was due to report its findings in the autumn.
Asked if two-year degrees were being considered, the PMS said that we were looking at the funding of universities and university places. What we wanted to do was make sure that we supported people from all backgrounds who wanted to go to university. The coalition document made the point that we needed to increase social mobility, ensure that we had a properly funded university sector and make sure that people from all backgrounds had the chance to go into higher education.
Asked if the Business Secretary would announce something tomorrow in his speech, the PMS said that reporters should wait for the speech.
Asked if it was likely that the Business Secretary would ask Lord Browne to look specifically at the idea of a graduate tax, the PMS said that the terms of reference for Lord Browne’s review stated that he would examine the balanced contributions to higher education funding by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers. It would take into account the affordability for students and their families during their studies and afterwards, and the impact on the public finances including affordability, sustainability and value for money for the taxpayer.
Put that the assumption was that shorter degrees would allow more people to go to university, the PMS said that there were already full and part time courses at university and the Browne review covered all courses, but the focus of the review was funding.
Put that the coalition document referred to social mobility and asked how that fit in with plans for universities, the PMS said the coalition document said the government would consider the outcome of the Browne review and would judge its proposals against the need to increase social mobility, the impact on student debt, as well as other criteria.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s policy was on memoirs and diaries by members of the government and officials, the PMS said that there were rules for officials regarding what they were and were not allowed to do once they had left the civil service. The Prime Minister felt that diaries by politicians were a fact of life.
Asked if the Prime Minister was keeping a diary, the PMS said that he was not sure the Prime Minister had time to keep a diary.