Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Regional Cabinet, Afghanistan and the David Richards interview, benefit cuts, final salary pensions, the G8 and G20 Summits and the World Cup.
Asked about the theme of the Regional Cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said it would be around enterprise and growth. The PMS said that the Government had made it very clear that the regions are immensely important, particularly to enterprise and growth.
Asked about other elements of the Regional Cabinet, the PMS confirmed that other Cabinet Ministers would be making visits that were relevant to their own portfolios but that details would be issued later on today.
Asked about the costs of the Regional Cabinet the PMS said that everything would be done to keep costs to an absolute minimum.
Afghanistan / David Richards interview
Asked about the Prime Minister’s view on the David Richards interview at the weekend, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made it very clear that reconciliation was a key part of the strategy in Afghanistan, and that the Afghanistan strategy not only included the military but also political and development aspects.
Benefit cuts / welfare
Asked whether the Prime Minister believed that there could be substantial cuts in the budget for Incapacity Benefit (IB), the PMS referred reporters to the Chancellor’s comments in the Budget; the talents of millions were being wasted and billions were spent on it in the process. We needed to increase the incentives to work, reduce the incentives to stay out of work and focus our benefits on those in need.
The PMS said that our benefits system had got to help those people who were in need, that fairness was at the heart of the Budget and would be a key driver when it came to looking at the Spending Review. The PMS said that there were many people who were trapped in the benefits system and that we needed to do as much as we could to help them get back into work and at the same time help those who were most vulnerable.
Asked about the timescale for the reassessment of people on IB, the PMS referred reporters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The PMS said that DWP was trying to improve the welfare system and ensure that assessments were done in the most efficient way possible.
Asked whether the Prime Minister envisaged a timescale to transfer a certain percentage of people currently claiming IB to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), the PMS said that this wasn’t the case and emphasised that the whole of the welfare system was being looked at.
Asked where the jobs the Government wanted people to take up would come from, the PMS said that the Government had put in place a budget that aimed to help the private sector produce jobs. The PMS said that the first thing was to get the economy back up and running and create the conditions for businesses to create the jobs of the future.
Asked whether shifting people from IB to JSA would mean that the unemployment figures would go up, the PMS said that this had to be looked at in the round. The PMS said that this was the start of a new Government that was looking at ways in which we could get those people who could work into work, and that this was not something that was going to happen overnight.
Asked whether the Prime Minister accepted that there was potential for huge social upheaval in response to asking everyone to go and find work, the PMS referred to what the Work and Pensions Secretary had said yesterday in his media interviews; we were looking at creating more flexibility in the system and giving help to people who were locked in areas where there wasn’t work in order that they can find work.
Final salary pensions
Asked whether final salary pensions would go, the PMS said that it was all part of the spending review.
Asked for a view on the Gleneagles promises of $25bn for Africa being left out of the final G8/ G20 communique, the PMS said the G20/ G8 discussions were generally successful and that the Prime Minister’s view was that perhaps not everything the Government wanted to achieve was achieved but that it had been a very successful meeting. On Millennium Development Goals, the PMS said there was an upcoming summit and the Government wanted partners around the world to meet their commitments.
Asked whether the Prime Minister had made or intended to make representations to Sepp Blatter about the introduction of technology in football matches, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not spoken to Sepp Blatter and had been expressing a view when asked a direct question about that yesterday. The PMS said that the Prime Minister did not think it was a matter for him to get involved in.
Asked whether the St George’s flag was still flying in Downing Street, the PMS said that it was replaced by the Union flag this morning.
Asked whether Fabio Capello should stay as the England coach, the PMS said that the Prime Minister did not think it was a matter for him.