NHS reforms, Greek deal and Ministry of Justice were among the topics discussed at this session.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) view of the Greek bail out deal, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that the Chancellor had already responded to that announcement. We’d been saying for sometime that we needed a resolution to the problems facing Greece, and that what we’d seen over the past 24 hours signalled real progress towards creating a sustainable debt position for that country. They now had to implement some quite difficult reforms.
Asked whether the PM would be prepared to accept any more amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, the PMS said that he didn’t envisage significant changes to the Bill. He said that clearly the Bill was still being debated in the House of Lords, and he wouldn’t want to pre-empt those discussions. The Government had undertaken a listening exercise, we took account of the views expressed during that time and we reformed the legislation accordingly.
Put that amendments sought to clarify that competition should be on quality and not price, the PMS said that changes had already been made to the Bill in that area to make it clear that there shouldn’t be cherry picking. Competition was something that GPs and Commissioning Groups controlled and they could use competition where it would be a useful tool for driving quality. He reiterated that the purpose of competition was to improve care for patients.
In answer to whether the PM would recommend a youth contract or an unpaid placement with Tesco to an unemployed young person, the PMS answered that the purpose of the support provided to the unemployed was that is should be tailored to the needs of the individual and in some cases, work experience was precisely the kind of experience they needed to help them get a permanent job.
Asked about whether and when there would be any changes to the 50p tax rate, the PMS responded that HMRC were looking at what revenue had been raised by the introduction of the 50p tax rate and that the work was still ongoing. He said he would expect there to be an update in due course and referred the assembled media to the Treasury for details, reminding them that the deadline for self assessment forms was at the very end of January, and that it had been extended slightly this year. It would take some time to analyse the reforms before conclusions could be drawn.
Ministry of Justice
Asked if the PM had seen any of the suggestions reporting that the Ministry of Justice would be abolished, the PMS said there were no plans to do so.