From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Libya, police reform and pensions.
Asked if one of the people who had been part of the diplomatic mission to Benghazi had been carrying a handwritten letter from the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said no.
Asked if that person had been carrying any letter from the Prime Minister, the PMS said no, and that he didn’t know where that story had come from.
Put that Colonel Gaddafi looked more secure in his position compared to a couple of weeks ago, the PMS said that we were looking at a whole range of options. We remained extremely concerned about the position on the ground and we still thought that Gaddafi needed to go.
Asked if the no-fly zone idea was back on the table, the PMS said that we had always said that it was a sensible contingency plan. The position now was that we were working closely with international partners to look at how this could be done. NATO had been tasked with looking at a range of options and there would be a meeting this week of NATO Defence Ministers.
Asked how unhelpful Russia’s position on no-fly zones was, the PMS said that Russia’s position was a matter for them. The Prime Minister had said that it was important for leaders of all countries to be looking closely at what was going on in Libya, thinking about what might be coming around the corner and planning for it.
Put that there had been allegations this morning that Government had been briefing against the police, the PMS said that the Home Secretary had made one of many speeches on police reform last week, and had been clear that we were going to look hard at police pay and conditions because they constituted 75% of police costs.
The PMS also said that the review we commissioned some time ago on police pay was being published today and we would reflect on its conclusions. There would be a process that followed on from our consideration of the report and there would have to be a negotiation with the police on that. We had been upfront about the size of the deficit and the fact we had to tackle it. Each department had to play its role in that, and when we were looking at police costs we would look very hard at police pay and conditions as they made up 75% of costs.
Asked if the Prime Minister wanted to express how much he appreciated what the police did on the frontline, the PMS said that the police did a very difficult job and we were very appreciative of everything they did. We had a deficit that we had to tackle, and finding savings in police costs had to be part of that. We intended to cut out wasteful spending; improve the efficiency of the police; and ensure that police officers spent as much time out on the beat as possible. We could not get away from the fact that we had to look at pay and conditions as they made up the majority of police costs.
Asked about the Government’s plans to change the current pension system, the PMS said that there would not be any announcements made today. The Work and Pensions Secretary of State would be making a speech setting out the problems with the current system. One of the problems was that it was a very complex system and people didn’t understand it. The other problem was that it could discourage people saving for their retirement. We were looking at the system in the round and would come up with some proposals shortly. More generally, it was fair to say that when it came to welfare the Government wanted to simplify systems where possible.
Asked what the Prime Minister would say to someone younger in terms of the financial support they were or weren’t receiving, the PMS said that the Work and Pensions Secretary of State would be talking today about the next generation and how to get the system right in the future so as they were saving properly and preparing for their retirement.