The Russian election, same sex marriages and alcohol pricing were among the topics discussed at this session.
Asked what the PM’s views were given the Home Secretary’s trip to Jordan to discuss Abu Qatada, the PMS said that the PM’s views had been made clear and the Government were still exploring all options available to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan.
Asked whether the PM was planning to go to Jordan to discuss the issue, the PMS said there were no current plans to do so.
Asked whether the PM was part of a mutual European leader’s pact not to meet Francois Hollande on his visit to London, the PMS denied the PM was part of a pact with other leaders. The PMS explained that as a general rule the PM does not meet candidates in elections.
Asked whether the PM thought the Russian election was an issue given OSCE comments, the PMS said that it was for the Russian people to choose their president as part of a democratic process. Russia had an obligation to uphold democratic processes and standards. While reports have identified some problems and the Government would like to see those issues addressed over time, it was clear that the election has delivered a decisive result.
Asked whether the PM welcomed Putin’s election, the PMS said that the UK had a constructive relationship with Russia and the Government wanted that to continue. The relationship allowed the UK to advance its national interests. While there were areas where the UK did not agree with Russia, it should not prevent the Government from working with Russia on areas of common interest.
Legal Aid Bill
Asked what the PM’s message to peers wishing to amend the Legal Aid Bill, the PMS said that the country had a very large legal aid bill in the UK and it was in need of reform.
Same Sex Marriages
Asked what the PM thought of Cardinal O’Brien’s comments on same sex marriages, the PMS said that the Government had made its position clear. People should have the option of civil marriage regardless of sexual orientation. The Government had set out proposals for consultation on civil marriage and not religious marriage.
Asked whether a change in the law for civil marriage would force religious groups to host same sex religious marriages, the PMS said that was not the intention of the proposals.
Asked what the timetable was for implementation of legislative changes, the PMS said that the timetable set out would allow for legislative changes before the end of this Parliament.
Asked whether the PM accepted that removing the child benefit from all top rate tax payers regardless of household income was unfair, the PMS said that the Government believed it was fair to ask those better off in society to make a greater contribution to paying down the national debt. The child benefit policy was due to be implemented in January 2013 and the Government would say more about its implementation prior to that.
Asked whether the PM intended to examine why a national newspaper had been misled by No10 over the Rebekah Brooke’s loan of a police horse, the PMS said that there were no plans to do so.
Women on Boards
Asked whether the Government would look into mandatory quotas for the number of women on company boards, the PMS said that Government believed it was better for companies themselves to take the issue forward.
Asked whether the Government was going to introduce minimum alcohol pricing in the coming week, the PMS said that Government would soon be publishing its Alcohol Strategy, but could not confirm the content or timing of the strategy.