The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told journalists that there would be an update from the Foreign Secretary this afternoon. The Foreign Office had confirmed over the weekend that officials would be meeting with the Scottish Crown Office later today to take forward their request to meet Musa Kusa, who remained at a safe location.
The Foreign Secretary was also meeting with the Chairman of the African Union Commission this morning. It was an opportunity to reach out to regional leaders, and they would also discuss the situation in the Ivory Coast.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Qadhafi was desperately seeking an exit strategy, the PMS said that there had been lots of reports of envoys and the regime reaching out in a number of ways, but he was not able to give a view on the voracity of those reports. We had been clear that the next steps should be a genuine ceasefire and an end to violence.
Put that it had been suggested that the Prime Minister was in talks with Greece and Qatar in terms of an exit strategy for Qadhafi, the PMS said that our position, as set out before, was that an exit strategy for Qadhafi was not something we were involved in pursuing.
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to the Greek Prime Minister, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had had a recent conversation with the Greek Prime Minister but it predated the reports of Qadhafi exit strategy discussions.
Asked if the Prime Minister had considered asking former Prime Minister Tony Blair to speak to Qadhafi, the PMS said that there had been no recent contacts.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for Scottish authorities to talk to Musa Kusa, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had answered this question last week. If they wanted to speak to Musa Kusa then it was a judgement they would have to make and we stood ready to assist them in any way we could.
Asked if the UK Government would be content for Qadhafi’s sons to be a part of the governing future of Libya, the PMS said that we had been clear that Qadhafi should go, and in terms of other members of that regime it was for the Libyan people to judge what a suitable government would be. We would not impose solutions on Libya.
Asked if the Prime Minister was convinced that a no-fly zone could be funded for six months, the PMS said that the six month figure referred to statements from the RAF, and looking at the full quotes in that context they had been talking about planning assumptions for the no-fly zone. Clearly they were thinking about different scenarios and planning on that basis, which was the right thing to do. It would be funded from the reserve, like all military operations, which the Chancellor had made clear.
Asked why the Health Secretary was making an Oral Statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, the PMS said that we had got to a certain point in the Bill process, in that the committee stage had been completed and there was a bit of a break with recess, so it was the right time to set out the next steps. However, people should wait for the statement to find out exactly what the Health Secretary would say.
Asked if certain changes to the Bill were going to be announced today, the PMS said that we had clear objectives in terms of modernising the health service and we intended to push ahead with those. The Health Secretary would set out next steps in that process this afternoon.
Asked about the timetabling of the Bill and how long it would take to come into effect, the PMS said that the precise timetabling of the Bill was not a crucial issue, and it was a matter for the business managers at Parliament. It was most crucial for us to press ahead with the reforms.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with Andrew Lansley’s leadership on this, the PMS said yes.
Asked what the precedence was for a Secretary of State to make a statement to the House regarding a Bill that wasn’t part of the timetabled schedule, the PMS said the Government was undertaking significant reform of the health service. We were not in the position to increase spending on the health service by 5% real terms year after year so we needed to modernise the health service. It was quite normal for the Secretary of State to keep Parliament informed.
Asked why the Prime Minister thought it was right to have this ‘listening period’, the PMS said that that term was not one he had used. The Prime Minister had been clear when asked about this in the past that we would listen to people about the reforms we were making. There was a need to modernise the NHS and we intended to press ahead with that.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought the Government had been successful in arguing the need for reforms, the PMS said that there was a job to be done in convincing people of these reforms, which the Prime Minister had previously made clear. We had looked ahead to the future and concluded that if we were not able commit record increases in spending year on year then we would have some problems. We needed to explain that to people, and explain why we were making changes.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with the Bill as it currently stood, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought that the reforms were necessary. Clearly as a bill progressed, Parliament expressed a view on legislation, which was reviewed.
Asked what the Deputy Prime Minister’s role had been in this, the PMS said that the Deputy Prime Minister had a role across the piece and all significant policies were agreed on a coalition basis.