Prime Minister’s Spokesperson on Chris Huhne, open primaries, stamp prices, regulation of lobbyists, the Eurozone and benefits.
Asked if Chris Huhne would continue to be a Cabinet Minister if charged over driving offences, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that she would not speculate on this. Mr Huhne had been appointed by the Prime Minister and there is a Ministerial Code to cover these issues.
Asked if being charged with an offence would constitute bringing the office into disrepute, the PMS directed journalists to the ministerial code.
Asked to clarify if the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister would make a decision on Mr Huhne’s future in the Cabinet, the PMS reiterated that the Prime Minister made decisions on membership of the Cabinet.
Asked if she was aware of any recent contact between the Prime Minister and Mr Huhne, the PMS said she was not.
Asked if the Prime Minister had confidence in Mr Huhne, the PMS confirmed the Prime Minister had confidence in the Energy Secretary.
Asked if the Government intended to fulfil the promise made in the Coalition Agreement on open primaries, the PMS said that if we had made a commitment in the Coalition Agreement we would deliver on it.
Asked if the Boundary Review had now made it more complicated, the PMS said she was not aware of this but directed journalists to the Cabinet Office.
Asked if the Prime Minister supported the 50 per cent increase in Royal Mail stamp prices, the PMS said that he had not made any particular comment on this issue but that the Royal Mail provides an important service for people and it is important that it remains affordable and sustainable which is why decisions had to be made about pricing.
Regulation of lobbyists
Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that regulation of lobbyists was being brought in fast enough, the PMS said that the Government had done a lot to increase transparency and this would help to raise people’s confidence in the political system. But on the issue of lobbyists she said it is important to get it right which is why the Government has published a consultation document to seek views on this issue.
Asked if the Government had already sought views from some stakeholders in order to draft the consultation document, the PMS confirmed that it not be unusual to seek views when preparing policy for consultation and, as part of usual process, we would now have a formal consultation.
Asked if the Prime Minister had a view on Trade Unions and charities who represent a particular cause should be treated the same as hired lobbyists, the PMS said we were seeking views through the consultation to define the scope of lobbying and lobbyists .
Asked for the Prime Minister’s reaction to the draft Eurozone deal which had been published, the PMS directed queries to the Treasury and advised that this was likely to be discussed at Ecofin the following week.
Asked if the Government had any qualms about the figures published that day on immigrants claiming benefits, the PMS said it was important that those people receiving benefits are receiving them legitimately. We don’t currently have systems to allow that clarity which is why the system is being changed. We want a system where we can more adequately check that people receiving benefits are entitled to them. The research has shown that there are some people who might not be receiving those benefits legitimately in which case we need to ensure that action is taken. People want to be reassured that those who are receiving benefits are entitled to them and those who aren’t don’t.
Asked to comment on suggestions by the BBC that a third of the foreign nationals identified as claiming benefits are British residents the PMS directed detailed questions to DWP.