The Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that Philip Hammond had chaired a cross-Ministerial working group meeting on the cold weather which was attended by a number of Government ministers. The PMS said that the meeting ran through preparations for the weekend and next week, that the majority of the transport network remained open, and that there were no major issues with the salt supply.
Asked where the meeting had taken place, the PMS said that it had been held at the Cabinet Office, but was not a “COBRA” meeting.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought fines should be imposed on transport operators, the PMS said that the Transport Secretary’s message to train operators had been clear that passengers must be kept informed and the Government would be monitoring their performance carefully while the situation continued.
Asked what the options open to Ministers were if train operators did not comply, the PMS said the priority was to ensure the transport network was kept moving and that the clear message from the morning’s meeting was that while there were local issues, there were no major problems and contingency plans were in place.
Asked what the Met Office’s contribution was to the meeting, the PMS said that the Met Office were there to give a summary and forecast of the weather over the next few days and beyond.
Asked if the Government was happy with the salt supplies for the whole of the winter, the PMS said that we were in a much better position that last year and that we had a national strategic salt reserve. The PMS said that the Transport Secretary had given a clear picture of salt supplies, that local authorities had 1.2million tones of salt while the Highways Agency had 260,000 tonnes of salt compared to 227,000 tones at the same time last year.
Asked how much salt local authorities had used so far, the PMS said that she did not have figures to hand, and how and where salt is used was a decision for local authorities to make. The PMS said that we were in a much better position this year with regard to salt stocks than we were last year.
Asked whether there were any fears over petrol, diesel, and food supplies, the PMS said that the matter had been discussed at the meeting and there were no major concerns.
Asked whether the Government was looking at help for the elderly during the cold weather, the PMS said that the Government was protecting winter fuel payments for pensioners and there were cold weather payments available.
Asked whether gas supplies were discussed at the meeting, the PMS said that gas supplies were higher than last winter, that the UK’s energy system was working well and that there were currently no supply issues related to the cold weather.
Asked whether there were concerns over health issues and added pressure on the NHS, the PMS said that local contingency plans were in place, that issues were being dealt with at a local level and that there were no major concerns.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned about a man in Salisbury who lay in the snow for hours while people walked by, the PMS said there were likely to be a number of saddening stories emerging following the cold snap but that the Government’s role was to ensure that everything that could be done by the various authorities was being done.
Asked how many more weeks we could survive a cold snap, the PMS said lessons had been learned from last year regarding conserving salt stocks and David Quarmby’s audit would look at how well authorities had performed.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would congratulate the Russians over their successful World Cup bid, the PMS said the Prime Minister would write to Prime Minister Putin and to the Emir of Qatar to congratulate both countries
Asked why the Prime Minister thought England had lost the World Cup bid, the PMS said the Prime Minister had made it clear that the team was bitterly disappointed, that he felt England had the best technical and commercial bid as well as the passion, but that it clearly had not been enough.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was concerned the competition would be held in Russia and Qatar, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not expressed a view and would congratulate those countries.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought Qatar now ought to recognise the state of Israel, the PMS said that 2022 was some way off, that this Government’s views on Israel were well known and that the Prime Minister would be congratulating Qatar on their successful bid.