From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: MPs' expenses, health funding, Defence Secretary, public sector cuts, energy, BP and drugs policy.
Asked what the Prime Minister thought about IPSA having to improve the job it was doing, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister recognised that there had been a lot concerns from all parties about the way the system was operating at the present time. The PMS said that MPs from all parties had been expressing the view that they thought it needed to be reformed. The Prime Minister’s concern was that the concerns of MPs were addressed, and addressed reasonably quickly.
On whether the Prime Minister thought that IPSA should be scrapped, the PMS replied that we needed to look at what could be done; there were problems associated with the fact that we had moved to a new system, but they were quite significant problems. MPs across the House had been raising concerns over this.
Put that he wasn’t ruling out scrapping IPSA, the PMS said that he was not ruling anything in or out, but the problems needed to be dealt with. This was primarily a Parliamentary matter for the House, rather than for the Government.
On what the Prime Minister meant when he said the system was ‘anti-family’, the PMS said that he would not get into the detail of what was said in a meeting between Tory MPs.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that MPs should have two family homes, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister thought there were problems that needed to be sorted out. The PMS added that we were not setting out a Government position. The Prime Minister was expressing the concerns of MPs across the House of Commons.
The PMS said that addressing the problems needed to be done in such a way that retained public confidence in the system. It was important that there were procedures in place that reassured the public that the expenses system was operating in the way it should. People would recall why IPSA was set up in the first instance.
Put that scrapping IPSA was an option, the PMS said that there was not a Government proposal being put forward. This was an issue for Parliament and MPs.
Asked if the PMS was aware of an NAO report that would show that efficiency in the NHS had slowed every year for the last ten years and would the Government seek further efficiency savings in the light of that, the PMS replied that the reforms that we set out yesterday were there to ensure that the NHS was run more efficiently.
The PMS said that the Government was sticking to the commitment in the Coalition Agreement that said there would be real term increases in every year of this Parliament. We had also said that the NHS would need to become more efficient as the financial environment meant we would not be able to give it 5% real increases each year, which had regularly been the case in the past.
On whether there was a firm commitment on real term increases, the PMS said that this had been covered yesterday afternoon. The position set out in the Coalition Agreement which stated that Health spending would increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament.
When asked if the Prime Minister thought it was wise for the Defence Secretary to go to Sri Lanka against the advice of the Foreign Secretary, the PMS said that he did not agree with the premise of the question. The Defence Secretary was going in a personal capacity.
Public sector cuts
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Chris Grayling that the Government had yet to convince the public over the need for cuts, the PMS replied that the need for cuts reflected the financial situation this country faced. There was a 10% deficit and most people understood that we needed to tackle it. There would be an ongoing process of explaining to the public the reforms we were making in particular areas.
Asked if the nuclear power industry was being subsidised after the announcements on tariffs were unveiled today, the PMS advised people to speak to DECC on the detail of the announcement on energy.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Chris Huhne’s comments that the plans being put forward on electricity were effectively a carbon tax, the PMS said that what were doing today, was setting out how we could renew our energy infrastructure.
A quarter of our power stations would be closing in the next ten years and that was something we needed to address. We would do that by providing some certainty for the private sector against which they would be able to make the investments that we needed as a country.
The PMS said that we needed to make sure that those investments were consistent with energy security in this country and our objectives for the environment.
Asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed that the US Government was suing BP, the PMS said that this was an issue for the US authorities and for BP. The PMS added that this was not unexpected.
On whether the Prime Minister had had any discussions with the US authorities on the issue, the PMS replied that the Department for Justice in the US said that it would be pursuing criminal and civil investigations on the 1st June and there had been discussions between the Prime Minister and President Obama on the issue around that time.
Asked if there had been any other discussions between officials from both countries, the PMS advised people to check with DECC and BIS, who led on the issue earlier in the year. On whether the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama on the issue, the PMS said not recently.
Asked if the Prime Minister would consider the proposals on drugs policy put forward by Bob Ainsworth today, the PMS said no. Asked if the Prime Minister would consider the potential tax revenues, the PMS said that the Government was not in favour of legalisation of drugs.
Asked why the Government took that approach, the PMS said that drugs caused a lot of harm in society and we did not think legalising drugs would be consistent with minimising that harm.
Asked if the Prime Minister intended to go to Oldham, the PMS said that it was his intention to do so.
Put that the Prime Minister had said that not enough was being done on preventing Islamic extremism and what was the Government currently doing, the PMS said that Pauline Neville Jones was currently reviewing the Prevent strategy and that was the focus of our work in this area.