Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was absurd that there should be a minimum statutory sentence for knife crime, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the Green Paper set out the proposals yesterday, following a review. The Prime Minister’s view on knife crime was that those people who used knives to commit offences should expect to go to prison. As part of the Green Paper yesterday a review of Schedule 21 was announced, which provided guidance to the judiciary.
Put that the Justice Secretary had said yesterday that it was absurd to have statutory limits on the judiciary in terms of sentencing, the PMS said that the key point was that people who committed heinous offences were given the sentences they deserved. It was ultimately for the judges to decide what those sentences should be. The Schedule 21 review was about making the guidance simpler as at the moment it was too complex and over prescriptive.
Asked about the mandatory life sentence, the PMS said the mandatory life sentence would not change; this was about guidance to the judiciary.
Asked what the Prime Minister would say to the knife crime victims’ families, the PMS said that the Prime Minister felt that we needed to send a strong message to those who carried knives; people who committed knife crimes should expect tough sentences, including prison when necessary.
Asked if the Prime Minister had any meetings planned with student groups, the PMS said that she was not aware of any meetings today, but of course the Prime Minister had been talking to people in the past few weeks regarding this issue.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s position was on people in receipt of the payroll not voting for Government policy, the PMS said that she would not preclude what was a hypothetical situation.
Asked if the Coalition Document included Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS’s) as part of collective responsibility, the PMS referred to the Ministerial Code. She said that PPS’s were not members of the Government, however they should ensure that no conflict arose, or appeared to arise between their role as a PPS and their private interests. PPS’s were expected to support the Government in important divisions in the House. No PPS who voted against the Government could retain his or her position.
Asked if that meant that Ministers could be sacked if they voted against the Government, the PMS said that she had not said that and referred the journalist to the Ministerial Code, which set out the principle of collective responsibility, save where it was explicitly set aside, applied to all Government Ministers. The principle of collective responsibility, save where it was explicitly set aside, required that Ministers should be able to express their views frankly in the expectation that they could argue freely in private whilst maintaining a united front when decisions were reached.