Asked about the Prime Minister’s meeting with union leaders today, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the meeting had been requested by the unions. The Prime Minister had met Brendan Barber over the summer, and had a meeting with the unions alongside the G20. They would discuss the economy, public services and pensions.
Asked what the Prime Minister thought of Len McCluskey’s remarks on coordinated strike action, the PMS said that we didn’t want to see coordinated strike action. We wanted to engage in constructive dialogue with the unions.
Asked why the Prime Minister was meeting with the unions when one of their leaders, Len McCluskey, had already made his position clear, the PMS said that we had a different view and it was important that we made our case. Government departments met with unions all the time, and there were established fora for us to engage with unions on particular policy issues.
Asked if there were any areas of common interest between the Government and the unions, the PMS said that there were a number of areas where we worked on specific issues, for example the unions and the Business Department discussed the skills strategy, and also the subject of regional growth was of interest to both the Government and the unions.
Asked what the Government’s position was on union legislation, the PMS said that there were no plans to make any changes.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the Transport Secretary was handling the problems caused by the weather effectively, the PMS said yes. The situation was that we had exceptionally severe weather conditions at the present time, which was clearly having an impact. The Government was doing all it could, led by the Transport Secretary, to ensure that the country kept moving.
Asked if the Transport Secretary had offered to resign, the PMS said no.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that there still weren’t any flights from Heathrow, the PMS said that the Transport Secretary had said this morning that discussions needed to take place about what had gone wrong. At the moment the priority was working with the transport operators, local authorities and the Highways Agency (HA) to ensure that we were doing all we could to relieve the situation.
Put that that meant the Prime Minister thought something had gone wrong, the PMS said that the Transport Secretary had said this morning that a conversation would take place about what went wrong. One of the things that had come up was that customers had not been given sufficient information about their flights.
Asked if there were sufficient supplies of salt and heating oil, the PMS said that on salt we were in a better place than we were last year. As of last Monday we held 1.25million tonnes of salt, and the HA held 260 thousand tonnes, as opposed to 227 thousand tonnes this time last year. In terms of heating oil there was not a lack of supply, it was an issue of distribution, and we were seeing what we could do to help. For example we had relaxed the regulations on driver hours to ensure that heating oil could be transported throughout the country.
Asked if the Prime Minister had attended any meetings on the weather conditions, the PMS said that there were meetings going on constantly, which the Transport Secretary had been leading on. There had been a number of conference calls over the weekend with the relevant agencies, and the Prime Minister had spoken to the Transport Secretary over the weekend. The Prime Minister had also spoken to the First Ministers of the devolved administrations.