Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 7 December 2010

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: prisons, tuition fees, Wikileaks and misc.

Prisons

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought that locking up more criminals would cut crime, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Justice Secretary would be setting out proposals this afternoon. The PMS said that the system was not delivering what really mattered, which was improved public safety through more effective punishments that reduced the prospect of criminals re-offending time and again.

The PMS added that the Prime Minister’s view was that prison was the right place for serious and dangerous offenders and the Government would always ensure there were always sufficient numbers of prison places available.

Asked what the Prime Minister meant by the system not working when more criminals had been locked up and crime was falling, the PMS replied that re-offending rates were still very high. What was important was that we tackled the cycle of people leaving prison and then re-offending. This was critical when trying to cut crime rates overall.

The PMS added that the Home Secretary had said on many occasions that, even though crime levels were the lowest on record, they were still too high. If people had committed offences, then it was up to the courts to give them the appropriate punishment.

Asked why the Prime Minister thought that people who had committed knife offences didn’t necessarily have to go to prison, the PMS said that ultimately it was up to judicial discretion, but clearly prison would be appropriate for particular cases. The PMS said that those people who used knives when committing crimes should expect a prison sentence. Knife crime did cover a wide range of offenders and circumstances and the courts should have that flexibility.

Put that that wasn’t what the Prime Minister was saying before the General Election, the PMS said that Ken Clarke would set out the proposals this afternoon.

When asked if the Prime Minister had got less concerned about people carrying knives, the PMS said that certainly wasn’t the case. The PMS said that this was about how to give the most appropriate punishment to those people who used knives when committing offences.

Asked if the Prime Minister was worried that voters trust would be damaged, the PMS said that we were in a Coalition Government. The Justice Secretary would be setting out the Government’s proposals this afternoon.

Tuition fees

On whether the Prime Minister still thought that £9000 should still be the upper limit, the PMS said that we had set out our policies on tuition fees and we looked forward to the vote on Thursday.

Put that there was no chance of any further compromises before Thursday, the PMS replied that £9000 was an upper limit and we expected most of the fees to be around the £6000 mark.

Asked if the Prime Minister expected Government Ministers to vote in favour of the Bill, the PMS replied that the policy was in the Coalition Agreement and advised people to wait until Thursday.

Asked if a Government Minister voting against Government policy was a sackable offence, the PMS said the policy of collective responsibility remained.

On whether there was a ‘Plan B’ if the Government lost the vote, the PMS replied that she would not speculate on the outcome of the vote.

Asked if the Prime Minister expected Government Ministers to abide by collective responsibility, the PMS responded by reading an extract from the Ministerial Code, which stated that ‘the Ministerial Code should be read alongside the Coalition Agreement. Ministers were expected to observe the seven principles of public life and the following principles of Ministerial conduct: the principle of collective responsibility, save where it is explicitly set aside applied to all Government Ministers.’

Asked if collective responsibility was explicitly set aside in this case, the PMS replied that people should speak to her political colleagues.

On whether the Prime Minister planned to speak to David Davis, the PMS said she wouldn’t comment on that and people would need to speak to her political colleagues.

Wikileaks

Asked if there had been any ministerial involvement in the arrest of Julian Assange, the PMS said that it was entirely a matter for the police. Asked if there would be any involvement in his extradition, the PMS said that it was a matter for the police.

Misc

Asked if the Prime Minister took a dim view of the Russians inserting spies into the Palace of Westminster, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had not made an explicit comment on the issue, but the case alluded to was now a matter for the immigration authorities.