Briefing by the Prime Minister's spokesman on: the Queen's speech, Treasury savings announcement, BA strike, Prime Minister's living arrangements, Prime Minister's security and misc
The Queen’s Speech
Asked why there wouldn’t be an official inquiry into the Queen’s Speech leak, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that this had only just happened over the weekend and we were looking into it. We had concluded that there wouldn’t be an official inquiry, but we would not go into particular detail about how that decision had been reached.
Put that it was a serious business, the PMS said that the Queen’s Speech was an important event in the Parliamentary calendar and it was disappointing to see it reported in the Sunday newspapers in the way it was.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on things being announced to the media rather than leaked, the PMS said that the standard procedure in terms of announcements was that important announcements were made to Parliament first.
Put that in the interest of open government and accountability it was important for people to be told why there wouldn’t be an official inquiry, the PMS said that this had happened over the course of the weekend, we were looking into how it happened and people should let us get on with that.
Asked who made the decision to not have a leak inquiry, the PMS said that he wouldn’t get into the process in terms of who took what decisions.
Asked if there had been any communication between Ministers, the Palace and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the PMS said that he would not get drawn into talking about the process around this; the Palace put out a short statement over the weekend, as had Downing Street, and there was nothing further to add.
Treasury Savings Announcement
Asked if today’s announcement should have been made to MPs rather than at a press conference, the PMS said that there was a strong need to get on and deal with this problem quickly. The deficit was the biggest priority for this government and they had been committed for some time to the idea of £6 billion of cuts. The important thing was to get on and give departments some clarity as soon as possible.
Asked how many jobs would go as a result of the efficiency cuts announced today, the PMS said that the Treasury had set out details across departments; the objective was to have a recruitment freeze rather than redundancies. We had set budgets today for individual departments and those departments would say more about where they would be making savings. In the most part the savings were about reducing inefficiencies and cutting waste, for example, reducing spend on consultancy costs and reducing the amount of first class travel undertaken by civil servants, none of which would have any impact on jobs in the public sector.
Put that jobs in the private sector could be affected if, for example, departments stopped using outside consultants, the PMS said that the most important thing for jobs in the private sector was that the economy was strong and that growth resumed. The biggest issue facing our economy at the present time was the size of the deficit and tackling that deficit required us to look very hard at the money government departments spent.
Asked what savings Downing Street would make, the PMS said that Downing Street’s budget fell within the Cabinet Office budget.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be travelling first class, the PMS said that he would not comment on the Prime Minister’s travel arrangements.
Asked if the Government planned to intervene in the BA strike, the PMS said that there was nothing to add to what the Transport Secretary said over the weekend; a strike was not going to resolve the outstanding issues and we encouraged the two parties to resume talks as soon as possible.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that BA staff should cross the picket line, the PMS said that the Prime Minister wanted to see the dispute resolved as quickly as possible; it was not in the interest of the company, the staff (in the long term), or the travelling public. We encouraged the two sides to get together and continue discussing the issues.
Put that before the general election the Prime Minister had asked BA workers to cross the picket line, the PMS said that the Prime Minister wanted to see as little disruption to passengers as possible.
Prime Minister’s Living Arrangements
Asked if the Prime Minister would be moving into the Downing Street this week, the PMS said that there wasn’t an exact date, but we expected him to move into Downing Street later this week.
Asked if the Prime Minister would live in No 11, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would live in the No 10 flat whilst work was carried out in the No 11 flat, and would then move into No 11.
Asked what the cost of work in No 11 would be, the PMS said that there was a maintenance budget and any excess would be met by the Prime Minister.
Asked how much the maintenance budget was, the PMS said that we had answered quite a few PQs on this subject and as such we had set out detail in terms of how much money was spent on maintaining Downing Street.
Asked what work was being carried out in No 11, the PMS said that he was not going to give a detailed account of what work was being carried out in the flat.
Prime Minister’s Security
Put that there had been criticism over the weekend about the Prime Minister’s security arrangements in terms of walking down White Hall and asked if there would be a change to the arrangements, the PMS said that the Prime Minister felt there was a balance to be struck; there was not a great distance between Downing Street and the House of Commons, and the Prime Minister would always listen to security advice. It was worth saying that the Prime Minister had never gone against security advice.
Asked if the Prime Minister felt that excessive security was just a part of wasteful bureaucracy, the PMS said that the Prime Minister took security very seriously and would always listen to advice.
Put that the majority of Cabinet members were millionaires and that this was not a fair representation of the public, the PMS said that the Cabinet should be judged on the job that they did and this morning they were making a priority of dealing with the problems the country faced.