Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 25 November 2010

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Tuition fees, Human Rights Act and John Bercow.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Tuition fees

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on the potential for Liberal Democrat Ministers plan to abstain en masse no the tuition fees vote, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that we did not have a date for the vote yet. He added that it was Government policy and we intended to implement it.

Asked if it was the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the Coalition Agreement that Liberal Democrat MPs could abstain on Government policy, the PMS replied that there were Government Ministers who were Liberal Democrat MPs.

Asked whether the Prime Minister expected his Ministers to support him on Government votes, the PMS said that there was a principle of collective responsibility, but there was also a Coalition Agreement. In that Coalition Agreement there were various provisions on specific issues.

Put that Nick Clegg had said he was happy with what Lord Browne had proposed and did this mean that all Liberal Democrat Ministers could no longer abstain, the PMS said that Lord Browne had set out his proposals and the Government had set out its proposals in response to that report.

Put that Liberal Democrat Ministers were now expected to support those proposals, the PMS said that this was a Coalition Government and there was a Coalition Agreement that had certain provisions in it.

On whether he accepted that it was odd that the Deputy Prime Minister might not support the Prime Minister, the PMS replied that we had a Coalition Government which was quite an unusual thing; we hadn’t had one for 70 years.

Asked whether the public deserved clarity on the issue, the PMS said that when there was a vote, there would be clarity. Put that people should know how Ministers were going to vote, the PMS said this was a Coalition Government and that meant certain things. The policy had been presented to the public and we intended to implement that policy.

Asked if the Prime Minister expected Ministers to support Government policy in the vote, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would expect Ministers to abide by the provisions of the Coalition Agreement.

On whether a decision had been taken on this yet, the PMS said it was not a decision for him what Liberal Democrat Ministers would do on this issue. Asked if a decision had been made on what Government Ministers would do, the PMS said that we had not settled the date of the vote and we would need to wait and see what happened.

Asked if the vote would happen before Christmas, the PMS said that that was the intention.

Human Rights Act

Asked if the Prime Minister had let down Frances Lawrence as the review of the Human Rights Act would not even start until 2012, the PMS said that there was a Coalition Government and there was a Coalition Agreement on this issue. It set out very clearly what the Government was going to do on the European Convention on Human Rights. Put that the timeline had only been revealed last month and it was essentially being kicked into the ‘long grass’, the PMS replied that we had a very clear position which was established soon after the Coalition Government was formed.

There were many other pieces of policy passing through the House of Commons and significant reforms underway in lots of areas and that’s what the Government was doing at the moment.

Asked if the Prime Minister wanted to scrap the Human Rights Act, the PMS said what the Prime Minister wanted to do was to abide by what was set out in the Coalition Agreement.

John Bercow

Put that there were reports that the Prime Minister’s joke had breached the Equality Act, the PMS said that it was a joke and was meant as such and it certainly wasn’t meant to cause any offence.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the legislation he was now falling foul of was a good idea, the PMS said that he was not an expert on the Equality Act.

Published 25 November 2010